The South Island is crowned by the drowned valleys and greenstone waters of the Marlborough Sounds. This divides into three distinct winegrowing regions that make up Marlborough. Awatere Valley, known for minerality and crispness. Southern Valleys, home to clay soils and the region’s first vineyards. And, finally, Wairau Valley. It was Wairau Valley which lured in David Hohnen. Its warm, dry maritime climate and stony free-draining soils are perfect for unhurried ripening and pungent aromatics.
Winemakers deserve credit for the quality of wines, but the climate and terroir lay the groundwork. Marlborough is sunny. And while it gets hot, the average temperature is on the cooler side, half a degree lower than the average in Sancerre. Marlborough has rhythm, the cadences of its diurnal cycle making it perfect for grapes. Warm days for vibrant ripening on the vine, cool nights for balance and acidity.
In the 1970s, only a few hundred hectares of vines existed in the region. Inspired by Cloudy Bay’s international success, New Zealand’s wine industry has grown quicker in one generation than anyone can quite believe. Marlborough’s vineyards now cover around 27,000 hectares. For size, the region is now approaching the Champagne appellation, at 34,000 hectares. Marlborough represents more than 60% of all New Zealand vineyards and produces 70% of all New Zealand wines.
Today, Cloudy Bay farms 163 parcels of vines and works with 65 grower blocks. Those parcels closer to the Wairau River have stony, sandy and free-draining soils ideal for the iconic Sauvignon Blanc. Further south of the river in the Southern Valleys, the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards love the heavy clay-based soils. These soils and Marlborough’s maritime climate work in harmony to set the stage for Cloudy Bay’s captivating style of wine: intense, fresh and expressive.
Cloudy Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc vineyards sit across three sub-regions in the heart of Wairau Valley: Rapaura, Renwick and Brancott Valley. Almost all the vines live in the coarse, free-draining gravelly soils of the old river valley. It was this soil that David Hohnen identified as ideal for the style of Sauvignon Blanc he wanted to make. This soil, and the valley’s climate, come together in harmony to create the perfect conditions for growing Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The resulting wines are pure, vibrant and full of concentrated stone fruit, citrus and subtle tropical characters. This is the Cloudy Bay benchmark style.
The Southern Valleys are subregion to the south of the Wairau Valley. The three main valleys, Brancott, Omaka and Waihopai, are rich with clay soils. These soils are home to three Cloudy Bay vineyards: Barracks, Mustang and Delta.
These three vineyards cover the breadth of ideal conditions for Pinot Noir: one is a valley, one is rolling and one is elevated. The clay soils of the Southern Valleys are cooler and hold more water than those of the gravelly Wairau Valley. Sloped sites give longer exposure to the sun for perfect maturation. Through attentive winemaking, the three terroirs find their voice in every vintage.
Cloudy Bay’s approach to Chardonnay is all about balance and harmony. Vineyards planted in the stony soils of Wairau Valley and the dense clay of the Southern Valleys work together to create a wine that marries ripe stone fruit and citrusy elegance. The key vineyards for the variety include Barracks, Motukawa, Estate, Mustang, and Brook Street.
" We are custodians of the land. Our job as farmers is to pass the land to the next generation in a better state than we received it. "
Jim White, Technical Director, Cloudy Bay