Cloudburst’s New Releases

Australia, Western Australia, Margaret River

Cloudburst’s New Releases

In 2013, I was covering the wines of Australia for The Wine Advocate. During one of my largescale tastings, I stumbled across a new Margaret River Chardonnay that was so singular, so good, that I vowed to pay a visit to the vineyard on my next trip to the area.

The Outsider

Not long after my first tasting of Cloudburst, I followed an address given to me by owner Will Berliner to what was little more than an overgrown field off the beaten Cave’s Road trail, within spitting distance of the ocean. After a short walk, we came across the vines, close-planted to a Burgundian Grand Cru density of 10,000 vines per hectare. It was trippy to see such small, tightly packed vines in Australia, where the canopies tend to follow the go-big-or-go-home philosophy. Only planted in 2005, Berliner’s vines, as cramped, challenged, and unlikely as they looked, were already producing something remarkable.

Later, sitting at his kitchen table, while tasting through his inaugural 2010 and 2011 vintages of the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, Berliner told me he was from Maine and had had a career in the film industry. He didn’t have much experience with wine but fell into it. His wife was originally from Australia, which was one of the main reasons for moving to this country. Then he shared with me his vision. He had chosen a virgin piece of land that had known neither crops nor chemicals. Having collected cuttings from local legends Woodlands and Cullen to propagate, he tight-planted the fledglings ungrafted, further opting to farm biodynamically and dry-grown (without irrigation). He had just under a hectare (around 2.4 acres) of land planted, so production was lower than most garragistes, yet he had no plans to expand production dramatically. Even more concerning than all that, these first releases were priced at $125-150, becoming the highest-priced wines in the region, and over the following three years, he raised those prices to $155-250. I thought he was crazy.

However, there was no denying that the wines were not only of outstanding quality but, more importantly, they were unique.

In June this year, while on a tasting trip in Bordeaux, I received an email from Berliner informing me he was also in Bordeaux and asking if we could meet. I’d heard his wines had found success worldwide, especially in the USA, but more recently, they were being sold on the Place de Bordeaux via major negociants such as Joanne and CVBG. I wanted to hear more about this sales arrangement, but I was most intrigued to see how the Cloudburst wines, coming from that insanely idealistic vineyard business concept he’d pitched to me so many years ago, had evolved and whether Berliner had been able to stick to his original principals.

“Well, we still have only about one hectare producing,” Berliner informed me. “We’re moving towards a hectare and a quarter. And we’ve got another hectare being developed—located through the forest from us and on the other side of the stream. This is red loam with granite boulders as opposed to the sandier soil profile we now have. It was just planted last winter.”


“As before, our new plantings have no rootstock,” he continued. “There’s no nursery involved. We just take cuttings and stick them in the ground. As you know, I’m not doing the same stuff as everyone else. We have parcels that have never seen any chemicals. We’re not recovering from something. I’ve been declaring my place and who I am since I last saw you. I’ll confess, I didn’t have a lot of confidence when I first saw you. I realize our taste profile is not exactly Australian, but that’s not what I’m after. I don’t think I’m the same animal as others from Margaret River. We are dry-grown, close-planted, and integrated with the surroundings. We’ve created an integrated forest. There’s no plowing. We are encouraging the mycelium so that the roots below are connecting with each other. I’ve got sub-parcels upon parcels. And we never acidify. For us, it’s all about picking decision.”


While Berliner took a breath, I asked him why he’d come to Bordeaux this trip. 

“I’m showing the wines to negociants,” he said. “The big change for me is selling through negociants. This has freed up a lot of time. And I’m building a winery,” he smiled. “As you know, we’d been making the wine at Woodlands’ winery. I’m here checking out some new equipment. I’m also looking for cellar workers from Bordeaux. Or they could come from Napa. I want to bring in a new perspective to the winery.” 

Today, Berliner’s wines are priced at $200-500+, on a par with the big-name Napa cults. So, don’t expect any bargains, but rather weigh the value of the principals, methods, and story behind this Margaret River outsider and the unique expression of place. And the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are absolutely delicious to boot, for whatever that’s worth.

Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photographs by Johan Berglund



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