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Wine of the Week for week ending 18 Dec 2005
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Cloudy Bay Gewurztraminer 2003
Marlborough, New Zealand

Mention Cloudy Bay to a group of international wine lovers and they will immediately think sauvignon blanc. This is because Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is probably New Zealand's most famous wine and like Chateau d'Yquem, lovers of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc can spot the label across a crowded room. It garners icon status in some parts of the world and is strictly on allocation. Correspondent Peter May gave an insight into the rarity of Cloudy Bay in UK wine shops in one of his earlier stories and the revelation that when anyone in the UK mentions 'Cloudy Bay', they actually mean Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

So mention Cloudy Bay and gewurztraminer in the same sentence and international wine lovers will probably say, "Does Cloudy Bay make a gewurztraminer? Really? I didnít know that."

I had exactly this conversation in a wine chat room when the topic turned to 'what to drink with curry'. Indian-style curries, that is. Not surprisingly someone said that beer was best.

"What about gewurztraminer?" I said.

Gewurztraminer, that gorgeous star of Alsace, doesnít immediately spring to mind as a curry accompaniment. It's similar to Cloudy Bay and gewurztraminer being disparate commodities.

Most people recommend Alsacienne foods, e.g. patť de fois gras, for this wonderfully spicy drink and when it comes to ethnic foods, Thai cuisine is top of the list. But match the right wine to the right Indian curry and wow, you can been in foodie heaven.

I had a bunch of gewurztraminers and pinot gris lined up on the table to taste - a flight for each variety - and then four dishes of food from India, Thai, Malay and China to taste the wines with afterwards.

There were two gewurztraminers that stood out as exceptional for their varietal definition and flavours and both were in the Alsace style. One of them was actually from Alsace, the Domaine Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Gewurztraminer 2003, and the other turned out to be the Cloudy Bay Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2003. Same vintage but different hemispheres, so the Cloudy Bay was actually six months older.

Cloudy Bay Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2003 is rich and intense with an oily, slightly toasty, sweet-scented floral aroma with lemon-scented Turkish Delight alluring the senses too. It's mouthfilling, rich and beautifully balanced with lychee, tangelo, kumquat, a ton of other tropical fruit, an array of aromatic spices and feijoa blossoms and rose petals as it lingers. There's a slightly vanillin influence from the use of oak coming through the musky backbone and the texture is smooth and slippery. Stunning wine. I love it.

A heady wine, it carries 14.5% alcohol by volume with 7.5 grams per litre of residual sugar and extremely low total acidity of 3.8 grams per litre.

The fruit for Cloudy Bay Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2003 was hand harvested on 23rd April 2003 then whole bunch pressed. It was fermented in old oak barrels with fermentation starting spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. After fermentation the wine stayed in contact with the yeast lees until November, when it was bottled.

Domaine Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Gewurztraminer 2003 is extremely floral smelling with rose petal, lilacs and an oily nuance like hand cream. Soft, spicy, almost peppery and lightly honeyed with a delicate oily texture, ridiculously low acidity (2.84 g/l) and a gorgeous, mouthfilling, lingering finish.

Cloudy Bay Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2003 was an absolute star with a Lamb Rogan Josh made by Elliot Bateman Curry Kitchen, available from the frozen section of selected supermarkets and dairies. I've been a fan of Elliot Bateman's curries since the man himself started had his first shop in Takapuna, opposite the old Mon Desir Hotel, about 20 to 25 years ago. We'd call into the shop and the aromas of the cooking curries would tantalise. Sometimes the curry you wanted had just been cooked and you could have it fresh, instead of frozen. Those days are long gone but the recipes of Elliot Bateman still live on.

Lamb Rogan Josh is a rich red curry with a yoghurt-based sauce and full of aromatics spices that harmonise so beautifully with the Cloudy Bay. It was a good, but not quite as stunning match with the Domaine Schlumberger, as well. I think it has to be the low acidity of the wines that make them go so well with this type of food, as other gewurztraminers in the line-up and the pinot gris wines didnít really work.

Other foods tasted with the wines were an Elliot Bateman Malay Chicken Curry, which was a 4-star match to both, a Thai Green Chicken Curry with lemongrass and coriander, that was a 4-star match to the Cloudy Bay and a 3-star match to the Domaine Schlumberger and a Chinese sesame soy flavoured pork dish, which was an absolute disaster.

An interesting and very worthwhile exercise.

Find out more about Cloudy Bay on their website,

© Sue Courtney
11 December 2005

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