Pinot and duck, a perfect pairing

The Cloudy Bay Pinot & Duck Tasting Trail kicked off this week with restaurants from Auckland to Dunedin taking part. Good magazine caught up with Cloudy Bay’s head viticulturist Jim White to get the low-down on the starring vintages on this special and strictly seasonal menu.

Jim White

In your opinion why does duck and pinot noir make a good pairing?

The red fruit and spice aromas and flavours match well with the games flavours of duck and the fresh acidity cuts through the rich duck flavours leaving the palate clean and fresh. The fact that they are both delicious may have something to do with it too.

As the viticulturist what can you tell us about the seasons and the grapes that went into these wines (Cloudy Bay 2014 and Te Wahi 2014)?

The growing seasons in both Marlborough and Central were similar. Mother nature was very kind, nice warm summers, not too hot and dry autumns. Harvest was very early in both regions, luckily as rain arrived in Marlborough on April 8 and continued for 10 days. It was nice to watch knowing all our grapes were in the winery.

How have those characteristics come through in the wine?

The weather conditions during ripening helped develop pinot noirs with good weight, depth of flavour and supple silky tannins.

Where does Cloudy Bay grow its pinot noir grapes?

Our Marlborough Pinot Noir comes from our three key pinot vineyards on the clay soils on the southern side of the Wairau Valley. The fruit for Te Wahi comes from our two Central Otago vineyards, the Calvert vineyard in Bannockburn and the Northburn vineyard on the eastern side on Lake Dunstan just to the north of Cromwell.

In your opinion, is pinot noir more of a food wine?

Because Pinot Noir is an aromatic red, it is very versatile on the table. Its red fruit profile matches well with red meats or game but the delicacy and freshness allows it to work well with lighter flavours of poultry and even richly flavoured seafood dishes. It’s my go to wine when dining with friends where everyone’s ordering different dishes from the menu.

The Cloudy Bay pinot and duck tasting trail

Aside from duck what is your favourite way to enjoy pinot noir?

I’m a bit of a forager and go mushroom hunting in autumn. Mushroom risotto is my favour match, or truffle risotto if I’m lucky enough to get my hands on one of those little gems.

What was your first pinot noir memory?

Growing up in Australia I got used to the big rich reds viewed pinot noir as a bit whimpish. It was a glass of Bass Phillip 1997 Pinot Noir that changed that view forever, as my palate developed the subtlety and complexity of a good pinot noir, along with the challenges of growing it. I now rate it as my favourite red wine.

What sustainable practices do you carry out in the vineyard in terms of vine management?

In the last six years we have moved to using under-vine cultivation for weed control, non-synthetic sprays to protect against vine diseases and an altered irrigation regime to minimise water use. As all farmers are custodians of the land we farmer, it’s our obligation to pass the land to the next generation in a better state than we found it.

What do you love most about your job?

Spending the whole year working on a producing grapes that will make a wine that will be enjoyed by people all over the world is satisfying, and then getting to enjoy your hard work for many years to come as you can dip into your cellar and recall the memories of each vintage.

What’s the most challenging part?

Dealing with mother nature. She can be incredibly kind some years with perfect growing conditions, other years you can battle frost in spring, poor growing season temperatures or rain at harvest. That said it’s one of the great things about wine, no two seasons are ever the same and you can never reproduce the wines from any year.

The Cloudy Bay Pinot & Duck Tasting Trails runs until May 31. For the full list of participating restaurants and bespoke duck and pinot pairings head to


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