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Cloudy Bay to launch Central Otago Pinot Noir

Cloudy Bay will release a Central Otago Pinot Noir in late Spring 2013, marking its first move outside New Zealand’s Marlborough region.

Cloudy Bay winemaker, Tim Heath

Just 1,000 cases of the 2010 Te Wahi, meaning “The Place”, have been produced, using grapes from three growers in Central Otago. However, Cloudy Bay winemaker Tim Heath denied that the move signaled a weakening of the Moët Hennessy-owned producer’s Marlborough roots.

“Marlborough is still very much the centre of our world,” he assured. “We’re not about to start making multi-regional blends; it’s just a different expression of Pinot Noir from New Zealand.” The name of the new wine is designed to support this outlook, encapsulating Heath’s description of Pinot Noir as being “all about the site.”

Denying recent rumours that Cloudy Bay had been looking for a site in Martinborough, Heath explained that he chose to branch out into Central Otago because this region offered the chance to make a very different style of Pinot Noir from the producer’s Marlborough expression.

Describing Marlborough Pinot Noir as “a lot brighter with lifted aromatics, more red fruits, florals and spice,” Heath noted: “the interplay of tannin and acid is always interesting; they’re not as big and structural as Central Otago, but I really enjoy them.”

He typified Pinot Noir from the more southerly, continental climate and schist soils of Central Otago as being “more skewed towards black fruit,” adding: “They’re definitely more masculine, powerful, solid wines.”

Given its limited production, the Te Wahi is expected to retail for a slightly higher price than its Marlborough counterpart, which is usually priced at just over £20. However, Heath insisted that this discrepancy did not mean the Central Otago was being positioned as a superior quality wine.

“It’s not better, it’s just different,” he stressed. “We wanted to expand our minds a little with regard to New Zealand and it also allows you to look at your own region a little bit differently.”

Outlining the relative merits of each region, Heath suggested: “Marlborough lends itself more easily to finesse”; while he described Central Otago Pinot Noir as “something that might age a little better than Marlborough.”

Despite its high profile, Central Otago remains a relatively young wine region, which only really took off at a commercial level in the 1990s. As a result, Heath suggested that its most exciting wines could be yet to come, remarking: “Most vineyards down there now have sufficient age to express the character of the site they’re on; young vines don’t tend to do that so well.”

Meanwhile, as Marlborough works to extend its reputation beyond its famous Sauvignon Blanc, a variety which continues to represent 50% of Cloudy Bay’s own production, Heath summed up the most common pitfalls for the region’s quality-focused Pinot Noir efforts.

“Pinot Noir costs money to make – you need to keep your yields down,” he remarked, before noting that, while the vigorous Sauvignon Blanc performs better on stoney soils, Pinot Noir performs best on the clay soils that dominate the south side of the valley. For Heath, “if you’re serious about Pinot Noir, that’s where your grapes will be.”


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