There are several things that make Marlborough iconic: the turquoise waters of the Marlborough Sounds, our rugged Wither Hills, sun-drenched weather reports and, of course, our wines. In this series we explore Marlborough’s iconic wineries.
These iconic wineries have stood as benchmarks for the region, pushing Marlborough forward as a whole and shaping what we consider to be quintessential “Marlborough”. Some have been operating from the region’s humble beginnings, while others are newer on the scene. One thing is certain, they provide a backbone for our region and tie the 151 wineries operating in Marlborough with a common thread.
The winery that put Marlborough on the map: Cloudy Bay
First up is Cloudy Bay, a winery most people have heard of.
We start here because this is a winery that makes its entire mission, from the site-specific wines to locally sourced food, about accentuating what makes Marlborough unique.
Cloudy Bay began in 1985 as one of the region’s first five wineries and is best known for putting Marlborough on the international wine map with its fruit-forward style of Sauvignon Blanc. Founder David Hohnen recognised early on that Sauvignon Blanc grown in Marlborough was unique with an aroma that couldn’t be duplicated anywhere else in the world. He set out to make a wine that highlighted this strong varietal distinction and marketed it offshore to be tried against top wines of the world. It took wine critics by surprise. The sleepy wine region of Marlborough was an overnight sensation, drawing more wineries and enthusiasts to the area in the years that followed, eventually creating the award-winning region it is today.
We often hear people say they remember their first sip of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. It’s the reason so many visitors flock to the classic cellar door when visiting Marlborough. Greeted by towering gum trees, the entry to the cellar door is modestly set under dappled sunlight with the sound of the breeze rustling through the vineyard rows that surround it. The tasting room is a bright space with peaked ceilings where visitors have a view of the barrel hall while tasting through the range of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Once finished tasting, guests are welcome to relax outside and enjoy a glass of wine with a bite or two off the menu of the Cloudy Bay’s seasonally focused restaurant, Jack’s Raw Bar. A glass of their Pelorus sparkling wine or classic Sauvignon Blanc with creamy oysters from the clear waters of Te Matuku Bay are enough to make any visitor feel like moving here. Fresh fish is paired with local Wakame on their sashimi plate, and cheeses for an end of meal wind down are selected with a strong emphasis on regional talents. It’s while sitting in the comfortable lawn chairs, or swaying in an egg chair from one of their trees, watching people play petanque, that you realise the locals like to hang out here too.
For a visitor who loves Sauvignon Blanc, this is a place that endeavours to show what this variety is capable of through offerings of older vintages that examine how the grape ages and tastes of their “Te Koko” Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll be pleasantly surprised seeing the variety we have come to know and love morph into a totally different wine with the influence of contrasting winemaking practices (wild fermentation in oak barrels as opposed to the typical stainless steel ferment ). While it all started with Sauvignon Blanc, in recent years Marlborough has been showing up on the wine map for a darker reason; Pinot Noir. Trust Cloudy Bay to lead with their hearts and create a red wine that truly encapsulates the Marlborough experience. Even Bob Campbell approves, naming them one of the region’s top Pinot Noir producers.
Cloudy Bay continues to be a winery that drives the industry, pushing forward new ideas for the wine region while holding tight to the essence of what sets Marlborough apart. That’s what makes it a favourite, and one of Marlborough’s iconic wineries.
- Our wine pick for Cloudy Bay is a celebration in a glass, Cloudy Bay’s Pelorus sparkling wine. The Pelorus river flows between Nelson and Blenheim in the Marlborough region, famous for scenes shot in The Hobbit and its emerald green, ice-cold waters that flow over a rocky base. It’s an elegant river, to say the least, and Cloudy Bay’s nod to one of the region’s pure and idyllic waterways reflects in their version of sparkling wine. The Pelorus sparkling is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes and is made in the traditional Methode style. Its taste is pure and not over stated, elegant with understated hints of citrus and pear. You could literally sit for hours (especially in their comfy lawn chairs) drinking it over a cheese plate from Jack’s Raw Bar, where it quite happily matches a combination of local cheeses, walnuts and fruit. We find it’s the best way to jazz up an ordinary day!
Ready to go?
We like to include Cloudy Bay in our private tours. So, whether you’re a local or visitor and want to experience this iconic winery yourself, give us a call today and we’d be more than happy to help.