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Veni Vidi Viticulture

I’d like to think that my near permanent thirst for wine is somehow matched by my equally persistent thirst for more knowledge about it. I am, as a result, wont to indulge in research at every opportunity – you know, the kind of research that involves drinking the stuff.

So, when I was invited recently to not only sample a selection of wines from Cloudy Bay, but to meet their viticulturist Siobán Harnett, I was hardly going to say no. The fact that this invitation also involved eating in Michelin-starred Guilbaud’s again was, er, a bonus – admittedly one that you might actually sell your granny for. None of your fried dandelions on the menu here, no sirree. Instead a range of delicate and impressive eats, designed to complement the ever elegant liquids of Cloudy Bay.

Lunch at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

On the Guilbaud's Cloudy Bay lunch menu:
Stewed Basque Pepper Terrine, Croustillant of Dublin Bay Prawns (yeah, I had to look it up too - they're crispy, in other words), Fillet of Charolais Beef, Rhubarb Cheese Cake (with an eminently edible candy-striped white chocolate surround)

Located in the Marlborough region and best known for its flagship sauvignon blanc, Cloudy Bay was one of the first widely exported New Zealand wines. It doesn’t live in the cheap bracket, but mention Cloudy Bay to anyone involved in the business of importing wine here and you will quickly find that it has a dedicated and enthusiastic following.

As viticulturist, Siobán’s job is to grow grapes of the type, quantity, quality and taste profile required for making Cloudy Bay wines. Listening to her, you come to realise that behind every great winemaker is a great viticulturist, one who knows the soil and vines intimately and understands the minutiae of the effects wrought by the weather experienced during every growing season.

Cloudy Bay Wines

Getting to know the Cloudy Bay team

The wines, too, she knows well, and like any good matchmaker, she made the appropriate introductions and let us get on with the job of getting know each other. It was a pleasure to meet them all, from the crisp, sparkling Pelorus and the silky 2006 Chardonnay to the beautifully smooth 2007 Pinot Noir.

There was, though, a special place in my affections for the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, which Siobán described (in a good way) as tropical and sweaty and had that distinctive grapefruit zing, one of the signatures of Marlborough sauvignon blanc. I had a soft spot, too, for the 2006 Te Koko. Also made from sauvignon blanc grapes, this was a mellower, less acidic and more honeyed affair. These grapes are not inoculated with a specific yeast, but, rather, allowed to ferment using the natural yeasts in the air, a process which takes longer and is more difficult to control. The result, compared to your typical New Zealand sauvignon blanc, is more bass than treble, but it was a true quencher of the thirsts in both mind and body, and very satisfying for that.

8 Comments

  1. Te Koko sounds lovely – I have a sweet spot for wines with less bite. Did you say rhubarb cheese cake? um…YUM!

  2. Daily Spud

    Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Oh yes, rhubarb cheesecake, um yum indeed! And the Te Koko was lovely – definitely an interesting wine I thought.

  3. Oh my, this is my kind of event, although I despair because my plating never looks like this, it would be something to aspire to. That being said, if I set something as beautiful as this down in front of my husband, he’d surely look at me funny. I can only imagine they tasted as good as they looked.

  4. That was lunch?! Somehow, I’m no longer as satisfied with today’s sandwich . . .

    Once again, you are the envy of us all for getting to attend yet another incredible event! Any possibility you can deconstruct the rhubarb cheesecake and recreate it for us?

  5. Daily Spud

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 9:11 am

    OysterCulture: oh gosh, well my own plating never looks anything remotely like this either – and I think that those who know me would also be shocked if I presented them with anything quite so elegant :D

    Tangled Noodle: Umm, yes, lunch – I think that the people I work with had a similiar reaction when I had to duck out for several hours to attend :) Meanwhile, I doubt that I could recreate anything as pretty as the rhubarb cheesecake, but maybe something inspired by it, hmmm…

  6. I lika all of the items on the menu!!

    Yummmm,…I also lovvveee the wine!

  7. How cool, our AWS just did a whole New Zealand tasting with New Zealand food too…

    We love cloudy bay, sometimes it is 30 a bottle for Sauvignon Blancs, and sometimes it is 18. You have to keep your eyes open! I was not a big fan of them, love shiraz, but Cloudy Bay grew on me :) Like a moss…taste of green grass and all!

    The food looks delish!

  8. Daily Spud

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Sophie: my sentiments exactly :)

    Chef E: I’m definitely a fan of the New Zealand sauvignon blanc and, I tell ya, if I saw Cloudy Bay on any kind of special, I’d be stocking up!

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