The Complicated Sauvignon Blanc


It is said that every wine has a story to tell. In the case of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, the title of the story would surely be, “It’s Complicated.” Fifteen years ago, Cloudy Bay became an international sensation and created a booming global market for New Zealand sauvignon blancs in general. Why Cloudy Bay, produced in the Marlborough region, at the northern tip of the South Island, was anointed the Chosen Wine was never entirely clear. It was certainly a good sauvignon blanc, but there were other good ones from New Zealand, and excellent ones from France’s Loire Valley. Still, Cloudy Bay acquired cult-like status, restaurants clamored to get it on their wine lists, and consumers fought to buy it by the case. And then, just as quickly as it materialized, the Cloudy Bay mania flamed out. Maybe people realized that while the wine was good, it wasn’t that good. Some observers felt that the quality declined after Cloudy Bay was acquired in 2003 by the French luxury brands empire LVMH.

Whatever the case, Cloudy Bay went from being one of the hottest wines on the market to being treated like hemlock. But if the enthusiasm was irrational, so was the backlash. Cloudy Bay was always an excellent representation of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and it remains so today: The 2011 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc has a sprightly citrus note, good acidity, and a nice undercurrent of minerality. The flavors could be a little more concentrated, but it is a crisp, refreshing sauvignon blanc that would be an excellent choice for a patio cocktail or a simple fish or poultry dinner. [$20;]

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