Cloudy Bay senior winemaker Tim Heath's expert advice on sourcing a crowd-pleaser.
Whether you're hosting an epic dinner party at home or celebrating the holidays out with friends at a neighborhood hotspot, ordering wine for the table doesn't have to be a daunting task. We caught up with Tim Heath, senior winemaker at Cloudy Bay, to get his expert advice on how to make an informed selection.
Founded in 1985, Cloudy Bay was one of the first five wineries established in Marlborough, one of New Zealand's pre-eminent wine regions. More than three decades on, Cloudy Bay produces a flagship Sauvignon Blanc (the 2017 vintage—which benefited from "ideal growing conditions"—was just released to market) as well as a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir, and a sparkling wine, Pelorus.
Make sure to explain what you know you like: "It's important to know what wine you like and how to describe what you like so the salesperson at your wine shop or the sommelier at a restaurant can get an understanding of your tastes and guide you to something similar or help you explore other options. For example, if you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you would let the person helping you know that you like fresh, crisp, refreshing wine with citrus and stone fruit flavors that is dry and unoaked."
Think about what's on the menu: "At the winery, as well as in local Marlborough restaurants, we like to pair Pinot Noir with pork and duck for heartier meals during cooler times of the year. Pork and Pinot is incredibly versatile while duck and Pinot makes such an elegant pairing. As an avid fly fisherman who loves being out on the water, I personally enjoy the Sauvignon Blanc with all sorts of freshwater fish and seafood."
Consider a New Zealand red: "For something special, I’d recommend our Te Wahi. We decided in the past three years to produce a wine from Central Otago way at the southern tip of our island, because the Pinot Noir from that region has such unique character that’s still very expressive of New Zealand terroir. It’s a little spicier, denser, and richer than its Marlborough counterpart. People don’t consider New Zealand Pinot Noir for these low-key wine-savoring moments as much as they should because of the overwhelming success of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand Pinot Noir, however, is lovely and Cloudy Bay has been making Pinot Noir since the founding of our winery—starting in Marlborough and more recently in Otago as well."
The ultimate crowd-pleaser: "Our Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are incredibly food-friendly and definite crowd-pleasers because of where, what, and how they are made. We are very lucky that the relatively cool New Zealand climate yields such well-balanced wines from these varietals. We get a lot of sunlight, but not a lot of heat, which makes the wines crisp and fresh. Our Sauvignon Blanc is bright with zippy acidity and completely unoaked while the Pinot Noir is a lighter-bodied, higher acid red without huge amounts of tannin or oak. Both are enjoyable with creamy, richer dishes because the acidity can cut through the fat, as well as lighter, leaner dishes like fish and sushi that they don’t overpower."