Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A Wine Tasting with a Difference: Cloudy Bay's Chelsea Flower Show Garden

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working in the blogging community is that you get some very intriguing emails. Never has this been more aptly demonstrated than an email I received a couple of weeks ago asking whether I wanted to come to a wine tasting hosted by Cloudy Bay, where they would be revealing a garden that they had commissioned for the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show.

My interest was piqued even further when they explained that the brief for the design of the garden was centred around the characteristics of their wines. How on earth were they going to do this; how would you reflect a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Noir in a garden? I had to find out.

"Yes, I will have another canapé please..."
The event took place in the rather swanky Moet Hennessey offices in Victoria (Cloudy Bay is part of the LVMH group) and started with a rather lovely glass of Cloudy Bay Pelorus, an elegant and classic fizz made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

This was accompanied by some exceedingly delicious canapés, with the smoked salmon parcels particularly memorable. After a little while we were summoned in to an adjacent room where the unveiling was to take place.

The Rich brothers

We were greeted by the Marketing Manager for Cloudy Bay who gave us an introduction to the brand and what they were trying to achieve.

Cloudy Bay have had gardens at Chelsea before, but this year they wanted to do something special so they joined forces with two bright and dynamic young landscape architects from Breacon Beacons, Harry and Dave Rich; two brothers who run Rich Landscapes. They were given the task of creating a garden that would encapsulate the spirit of the Cloudy Bay vineyards and their wines.

The brothers took us through their approach to the brief and the design process. They started off by characterising the two wines that they focussed on for their design (Cloudy Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir) through a number of adjectives; Sauvignon Blanc became crisp and fresh, and Pinot Noir became precise and elegant.

The concept behind the shack being explained
From these profiles they then created mood boards for each of the two grapes and looked to see how these concepts could be recreated in a garden. The different grapes got different flowers assigned to them, which characterised the adjectives they'd used for the mood boards.

However, the real genius for me was in their idea for the seating area for the garden. For this they took inspiration from the Visitors’ Centre in Cloudy Bay’s vineyards over in NZ, which is a beautiful wood cabin like structure with a glass frontage.

The boys are going to create a smaller version of this, but mounted it on rails so that you would be able to sit in it and travel through the garden. They believe that this will be the first time that something like this has ever been done at Chelsea and the results are set to be spectacular – I am definitely going to head down to check it out!

So, how were the wines?

We started off with the Cloudy Bay 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (available from Majestic for £27.50/bottle). Now, I have a confession here – I am not particularly a fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, particularly those from Marlborough. I find them often overly fruity and lacking acidity to balance them out. Their over-extraction means that they can be an assault the nose.

I was delighted to find, however, that I really liked the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. It was bright and fresh, clean and light. The purity of it was marked on both the nose and the mouth. It had citrus notes of pink grapefruit, but also had a nice vegetal bite to it that reminded me of cucumber. This is a classy wine, forming a pleasing “best of both worlds” between mineralic Loires and fruity Malboroughs. Quality: 7.5; Value: 6.0.
Next up we were on to the Cloudy Bay 2012 Pinot Noir (available from Majestic for £35/bottle). Now I was excited about this. If New Zealand should be famous for a grape, it should be for their Pinot Noirs (and not their Sauvignon Blancs).

I tend to favour Pinots from Otago or Martinborough, but Marlborough also makes some fantastic, expressive Pinots and I was keen to try this one out. The nose was wonderfully complex with some light blackcurrant, which was expected, but some deeper notes of mocha, truffle and caramel, which weren’t.

On the mouth it was bright with acidity again and had a real thrust of red fruits: strawberries and cherries. The pleasure for me in New Zealand Pinot Noirs is their accessibility and fruitiness, but this had an added extra of some real depth to it. I suspect that this wine is best drunk relatively young, but those deeper qualities suggest that it could age. Quality: 8.0; Value: 5.0.

There you have it, two fantastic wines and two wonderful and imaginative gardeners. I would highly recommend getting down to this year's Chelsea Flower Show and checking them both out!

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