The Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2020 – the latest vintage of the signature wine from the Marlborough, New Zealand-based winery – is a taste of pandemic times.

2020 will be the year known for the coronavirus pandemic that’s swept across the globe to shut down economies and claim countless lives. Even now, Italy, Spain, and France – iconic wine producing countries – are struggling with a second wave of the health epidemic.

On the other hand, one bright spark has been New Zealand, which has dealt with COVID-19 with a ruthless efficiency to the envy of many a country. But that’s down to a population that’s largely willing to heed the advice of its government in putting up with punitive, almost draconian measures to deal with the virus. Likewise with its burgeoning wine industry, which had to deal with many major inconveniences.

Such as Cloudy Bay, possibly New Zealand’s best-known winery.

“If you had told me at the beginning of 2020 that one of my most pressing jobs during our harvest in March would be the distribution of surgical masks, I would have taken another sip of my Sauvignon (Blanc) and laughed you out of the room,” Jim White, Technical Director of Cloudy Bay, mused in his winemaker’s letter.

White was forced in March to arrange for an urgent allocation of face masks to winery and vineyard staff so that harvesting of the berries could proceed. Social distancing rules and sanitisation regimens meant usual operations weren’t anywhere near normal.

The silver lining in the very dark cloud for Cloudy Bay this year, according to White, was that grape-growing conditions were close to ideal in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley where the fruit for Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is sourced. While there was some frost early in the growing season and wet conditions in December, generally the weather was largely dry and benign with little threat of disease.

It shows in the wine. Unlike the 2018 vintage which was riper due to a warmer year, the 2020 edition is exquisitely balanced. On the nose you’ll get mouthwatering citrus in zesty lime and grapefruit. On the attack, a melange of more lime with a touch of lemongrass and fresh hay, which dries out to a slight medicinal note on the finish. A subtle minerality gives the wine some backbone. There’s an acid dryness throughout you know will lend itself well to being paired with seafood, or spicy Thai dishes. But a slightly higher ABV compared to recent vintages – at 13.5% – can make this easy-drinking Sauvignon Blanc a tad dangerous.

“It is certainly a vintage to remember, and I’m sure all of us involved are showing our scars in the form of a few more grey hairs,” said White. “Above all, I’m proud of our team who worked hard under exceptional and stressful circumstances and did not compromise in any way,” he added.

If there’s one thing that we can say about this vintage of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, it’s that it’s a liquid allegory of how New Zealand has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic – plenty of grace and poise.

The Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2020 is available at leading fine wine retailers and stockists at varying prices.



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