Cloudburst: the remarkable emergence of a cult Margaret River wine brand

Will Berliner

Cloudburst is a really interesting and slightly controversial wine project in Margaret River. Interesting? Because the wines are so good. Controversial? Because of high prices, despite the lack of any track record.

Owner Will Berliner (above) wasn’t previously involved with wine, but has always loved plants. He studied plant biology and owned forests in the USA, and throughout his life he’s always had gardens, which he’s managed organically.

He decided that he’d escape the New York winters and move his family over to Margaret River, Australia, for the coldest portion of the year. This swallow shift also had the aim of stopping his Australian wife from feeling too homesick.

So he bought a property. He had a look at the soils and decided that if he was going to grow something, grapes would be the ideal choice. And Will thought he’d try growing these grapes biodynamically. The soil on his property was beaten up, because it had been pastured to excess. ‘I began a long process of asking questions and studying,’ he says. The next year Will started working in other peoples’ vineyards for free to gain experience, and this helped him crystallize his own ideas.

‘When it came time to plant, I did things differently to my peers,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t expecting it to become a commercial operation.’ He planted his vineyard with a view to managing it without cultivation, instead using mulches, which started off as bark and later were from whole trees. He stored the cuttings, and then shredded and composted them, and put them back into the vineyard. ‘We hand weed and mix the weeds with seaweed; we are two miles from the ocean,’ says Will. The vineyard is close-planted, own rooted, and unirrigated. The rows are short (30 metres) which allows him to get to know the vines. ‘I have learned to do less and to look more,’ he says. ‘I spend a lot of time in there and it is very hands on. I get to see all the subtle things when I am walsking through daily.’

Currently 4 acres are planted and 2.5 are in production. ‘Ultimately we will have 7 acres,’ says Will. ‘When we began, I never expected to be living in Australia. I moved over there in 2012.’

He entered the shows with his 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and swept the board. His sales model is simply to sell to restaurants and direct to consumers. ‘I want to focus on being in the vineyard and working the vines.’

I like Will’s approach. ‘There’s a spirit in a place: a spirit that gets embodied. And maybe if you don’t maniuplate, it comes through more truly. I believe that there is a spirit to it all, and a spirit that we have when we connect through imbibing.’

He’s been making the wine at Woodlands with some help, but will soon split off on his own. ‘I’m very happy with the way the wines are going,’ says Will. These wines are expensive (A$250 for the Chardonnay, A$275 for the Cabernet), but they are very fine.

cloudburst

Cloudburst Chardonnay 2012 Margaret River, Australia
13% alcohol. 2867 bottles. Nine months in oak, one-third new. Nutty, slightly toasty nose is rich and a bit figgy, with nice peach and pear fruit. The palate is stylish, smooth-textured and bold with fine pear and peach fruit. 93/100

Cloudburst Chardonnay 2013 Margaret River, Australia
13.9% alcohol. 2888 bottles. 10 months in oak, one-third new. Fine, toasty and ripe with some spiciness. Real finesse on the nose with hints of fennel. Stylish, warm palate with nice weight of pear and peach fruit. Refined and pure. 94/100

Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Margaret River, Australia
13.2% alcohol. This has 7% Malbec in the blend. Lovely aromatics: cedar, spice, blackcurrants. So refined. The palate is elegant and pure with supple, textured blackcurrant fruit and fine-grained tannins. So pretty and elegant. 95/100

Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Margaret River, Australia
13.5% alcohol. Has 7% Malbec in the blend. Vibrant blackcurrant fruit nose is so pure with a bit of spiciness. Direct and floral. Vivid, juicy blackcurrant fruit palate with nice structure. Vibrant, youthful and pure. 94/100

Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Margaret River, Australia
13.2% alcohol, 5% Malbec. Vivid, fresh, direct blackcurrant fruit nose. Powerful, bold palate with vivid black fruits and a nice hint of green. Well integrated, primary and focused with lovely balance. 95/100

Cloudburst Malbec 2012 Margaret River, Australia
13% alcohol. Vibrant and juicy with nice bright, direct cherry and plum fruit with freshness and a juicy personality. Lovely powerful structure an freshness with good acidity. Serious. 94/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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