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Cloudy Bay’s Tim Heath: Living the dream

Now in his eighth year at Cloudy Bay, winemaker Tim Heath continues to enjoy Marlborough’s peaceful way of life while preserving the wineries reputation for quality wines.

“It’s such a clean and pristine environment here in Marlborough and the fruit characters we get in Cloudy Bay really reflect that side of our country and its personality. It’s so quiet and there are lots of wide open spaces where you can enjoy a real sense of solitude. Everywhere you look is absolutely beautiful – it’s a fantastic place to live and work.”

Cloudy Bay vineyards are situated in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine growing region and home of the world renowned Sauvignon Blanc.

The winery’s plots, all based in the northern end of the South Island, benefit from the longest hours of sunshine in the country with coastal influences providing cool, clear nights. The area boasts two main types of soil which shape the different wines Cloudy Bay makes: “You’ve either got a clay based soil or a gravel based type of soil.

“The river stones with the lean and boney soils work really well for Sauvignon Blanc – because it’s quite a harsh environment it makes the vines slow-down and concentrate its fruit characters.

“But on the other side of the valley the soil is a little bit older and has more clay. We’ve found especially over the last 10 -15 years Pinot Noir is very well suited to that side of the valley.”

Cloudy Bay owns four vineyard sites around the valley – two of which are 100% Sauvignon focused – Estate Vineyard and Widow’s Block and two are based on the southern side of the valley, Barracks Vineyard which is 100% Pinot Noir and Mustang Vineyard which has a mixture of the two varieties.

Each plot works with a specific variety in mind with the advantage of Marlborough’s genuine cool-climate viticulture.

“Daytimes in the summer usually stay in the mid 20s with quite cool nights which helps slow down the ripening of the grapes and help them retain the acidity. It also allows them to hang on the vine without building huge sugar levels.

“You get the flavour development without the associated alcohol levels, which means that we get well-balanced fruit to make great wine from.”

Known for his love of cooking Tim is often called upon to provide food and wine pairings, and with his love of diving and foraging in the mountains it’s no surprise he recommends fresh fish or wild deer to match with Cloudy Bay’s Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs: “We’re lucky in Marlborough we have access to great seafood, so scallops and crayfish are a fantastic combination with Sauvignon. It’s a really fresh, racy wine so anything that has flavours that mirror that character in terms of its freshness is the way to go.

“For Pinot Noir, venison is an excellent combination, especially the wild deer we get in New Zealand.”

When Tim’s not tending the vines, or looking after his eleven-month-old twins with wife Amy, he’s meeting wine enthusiasts through special one-off events held in association with Platinum from American Express, such as the tasting held in the Moet Hennessey UK Offices, London last year and the upcoming preview of the new Sauvignon Blanc vintage exclusively for Platinum members in October, as well as those who visit the winery’s Cellar Door and annual events ‘Pinot at Cloudy Bay’ and ‘Forage’.

“Most places around here have a Cellar Door – there’s usually no need to make an appointment, you can just drive up and say hello.

“There aren’t 50,000 wineries scattered all over the place, everything is really easy to get to and everyone is happy to stop and talk and share what they’re doing.

“It’s a really open industry and people will get a lot from actually coming down and understanding how the region works.

“The best way to see Marlborough is hire a car and start driving – everywhere you look is basically a picture postcard. You’ve got two sets of mountains that wrap around the valley and head off into the west then there’s Cloudy Bay at one end and off to the side you’ve got the Marlborough Sounds to enjoy. There’s plenty to see and do as well as great wine to enjoy.”

Read more of Decanter’s interview with Tim Heath and find out more about Cloudy Bay and the Platinum Card from American Express here

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Written by Decanter

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