Q&A: Nick Lane, winemaker, Cloudy Bay

This week we talk to Cloudy Bay winemaker Nick Lane, who lets us in on his hopes and dreams for the year ahead, including his desire to see New Zealand make its mark in sparkling wine.

How did you get into wine?

Through drinking it. I lived in Toulouse for a year-and-a-half with my father as a teenager. I drank a lot of decent French wine and realised you could make a living out of doing something you loved, so I went back to New Zealand to study wine.

What’s going on at Cloudy Bay at the moment?

The big news is that we’re building a VIP guesthouse called “The Shack”, which will open next summer. It’s a very modern build and I plan on treating it like my own cellar.

Are Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir still New Zealand’s flagship grapes?

Undeniably, yes. I’m excited about where our Pinot Noir is going – we’re moving towards signing up some small growers in the Wither Hills. The thing people don’t know about New Zealand is that we make top quality sparklers. We’re trying to introduce people to the idea with Pelorus, but there aren’t enough serious producers of sparkling wine in New Zealand yet, which is something we need to work on, because we’ve got the perfect climate for it, but haven’t capitalised on the opportunity yet.

Is your Chardonnay a hard sell?

New Zealand Chardonnay has a bit of an image problem because it lives in the shadow of Sauvignon Blanc. We make fresh, zippy Chardonnay, but it’s hard to convince people of its quality, especially in the UK, which has a strong emotional link to our Sauvignon Blanc.

Is the New World capable of making ageworthy wines?

Of course. As our vines age, our chances of making good wine to lay down increase. They play an important part in the process. Winemaking is changing in the New World. A lot of the cheaper stuff is deliberately made to be consumed young to satisfy consumer demand. But more New World winemakers are building wines to age. Our 2001 Chardonnay is drinking really well at the moment with a decade of age on it.

Are you targeting the Asian market?

Yes, and we’re focusing on women, because they’re much more into white wine over there than men. Asian men mostly drink red, as they see white wine as feminine. We’ve made our marketing female friendly. Asia is very important for us now – we’ve seen healthy sales increases there recently. Sales in Korea are growing too, we’re getting quite well known over there.

What are your aims for 2012?

Approaching my 10th vintage, I’d really like to see Pelorus find a place in the world. An ambitious and crazy goal is for Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir to have the same reputation and recognition as our Sauvignon Blanc. We’ve come a long way in 15 years, and I’ve got a lot of faith in the vineyard.

What’s on your iPod?

I left it on a plane recently, so someone else is enjoying the music right now, but The Naked And Famous, The Rolling Stones and Mozart all made an appearance.

Where was the last place you went on holiday?

Matarangi – a small beach town on the Coromandel Peninsula. I’m about to go to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

Tell me a quirky fact about yourself…

Despite my Kiwi accent, I was born in Switzerland.

Who would be your dream dinner party guests and what would you serve them?

I’d invite the unlikely duo of Scarlett Johansson and David Attenborough, and would pour them an Egon Müller Spätlese in a bid to convince them of the merits of German wine.

What’s your life philosophy?

Exercise your body as much as your brain.

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