Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2012 (Marlborough, NZ)
14%, Screwcap, $40
I’ve always been puzzled about why Chardonnay is considered the ugly sister in Marlborough. Even the vignerons seem to treat it like an also-ran, even though the best wines are really, genuinely good. Is it because of Chardonnay’s ubiquitousness? Is Chardonnay that uncool?
Regardless, this new Cloudy Bay Chardonnay deserves celebrating. Over the years this wine has suffered a little from heavy-handed oak treatment, yet this vintage seems to be almost spot on, even despite what was a cool and challenging year.
Part of the secret seems to be some very careful winemaking, with partial malo helping to avoid any stodginess and the new oak dialed back to just 20%. There is a clay/play-doh white chocolate oak character from the 100% barrel ferment, but it seems to be nose only, the palate driven by fruit richness and underpinned by driving grapefruity acidity (a highish TA of 7.8g/L just backs up the perception of that acid freshness).
I looked at this Chardonnay over the course of about an hour and it continued to impress. It needs 12 months, but no questioning the class and detail of this wine. Easily the best Cloudy Bay Chardonnay in years.