Saint Clair stands out as one of the most famous names in the New Zealand wine industry.
This family-owned Estate located in the heart of the Marlborough region produces a wide range of quality wines. But it’s the precision of their Sauvignon Blanc wines that has made the winery’s reputation.
Social Vignerons has asked Saint Clair Family Estate to tell us their story. Read on to learn more…
Wine Reviews & Tasting Notes of Saint Clair wines:
Saint Clair Family Estate is owned by Neal and Judy Ibbotson, viticulture pioneers in Marlborough since 1978. Grapes were originally supplied to local wine companies; however a desire to extend the quality achieved in the vineyard through to the finished wine led to the establishment of Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994.
The Saint Clair name originates from the vineyard property, first settled by the Sinclair family. Pioneer James Sinclair built one of the first homes in Blenheim and was closely associated with the early development of the town. Over time the name of the property reverted to the original Saint Clair.
The company’s mission is to create world-class wines that exceed their customers’ every expectation. Neal Ibbotson combines his extensive viticultural expertise plus Marlborough’s mix of climate and soils with the talent of one of New Zealand’s leading winemaking teams, led by Matt Thomson and Hamish Clark.
From 1994 when wines from the first vintage all won medals including gold, the name Saint Clair has been synonymous with quality and its award-winning record continues today. Top International accolades include the trophy to Matt Thomson of Saint Clair for White Winemaker of the Year at the London International Wine Challenge, September 2008 and the coveted trophy for Best New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year at the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2005. Saint Clair Family Estate also has the distinction of being the first New Zealand wine company to win major international trophies for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir in the same year.
Marlborough, New Zealand, with a vineyard also in the Gimblett Gravels winegrowing district of Hawke’s Bay
Marlborough is situated at the top northeastern tip of New Zealand’s South Island at altitude of 40 degrees south of the equator, parallel to some of the worlds’ major wine growing regions in the Northern Hemisphere.
It is a clean, quiet sunny valley sheltered from the worst of New Zealand’s maritime weather by hills to the north and south. Its main town Blenheim regularly tops New Zealand’s record for highest annual sunshine hours. It has a growing population due to the fast growing wine industry, gourmet food industry and commercial mussel and salmon farming in the nearby picturesque Marlborough Sounds.
Experts find it hard to believe that the first grapes were planted in Marlborough as recently as 1973. Marlborough is now the largest grape growing and winemaking region in New Zealand and produces approximately 70 percent of New Zealand’s wine exports
The star grape variety is Sauvignon Blanc, recognised internationally as a benchmark flavour and varietal character standard. The fertile, free-draining silt loam soils of the lower Wairau Valley provide ideal growing conditions for Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough’s two other most popular varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, prosper in the shallow clay soils of the southern valleys.
Saint Clair’s ‘state of the art’ winery is situated equal distance between Saint Clair’s Awatere Valley Vineyard and Wairau Valley Vineyards.
Architect Neal Charles Jones and Saint Clair’s Chief Winemaker, Matt Thomson, combined their extensive experience to design Saint Clair Estate’s state of the art winery.
Built for production from the 2006 harvest, the winery is capable of crushing 400 tonnes of fruit per day. It features state of the art equipment including high-tec refrigeration control and monitoring software to further enhance the quality of Saint Clair award-winning wines.
The Riverland’s Estate location was chosen as an ideal position for the new winery due to its central location and proximity to Saint Clair’s main vineyards. The site has adjoining facilities for bottling, storage and dispatch.
The winery boasts a large temperature controlled barrel hall for storage of up to 850 oak barriques.
The Saint Clair Family Estate winery is extremely functional and continues to be developed to meet the specific needs for Saint Clair’s quality wine production.
A wide choice in Marlborough Vineyard sites, including the Wairau, Awatere and Ure Valleys, allows Saint Clair to specialise its plantings by grape variety in the sub-regions that provide the most suitable terroir for each.
Saint Clair has developed six vineyards in different sites in Marlborough, including the Rapaura, Awatere, Waihopai and Omaka Valleys. Only superior fruit from the best locations for each individual variety is selected for the Saint Clair label.
In 2001 Saint Clair introduced a ‘grading system’ for all its vineyards different wine batches and marks them out of 10 for quality each year. This provides valuable information with records now over a period of time showing which vineyards provide the best fruit and which varieties produce the best quality in each of the vineyards. The grading system is also used extensively as a management tool for identifying and improving best vineyard practices, and for payments to growers.
Other factors contributing to wine quality include a sustainable approach with minimal use of vineyard sprays, open canopy with good light and airflow, leaf plucking, fruit and shoot thinning and selection with no cultivation. After harvest the fruit is moved rapidly from vine, to press, to tank and barrel, to preserve fruit quality and character.
Neal & Judy Ibbotson, Directors
Neal and Judy Ibbotson’s extensive viticulture experience have allowed them to identify the best areas and sites in Marlborough. Since 1978 they gradually purchased land at six different Marlborough locations (including the Rapaura, Awatere, Waihopai and Omaka Valleys) and built up an excellent knowledge of what varieties do best in each of the sites. They then either replanted or top grafted their vineyards accordingly on each site.
The Ibbotson Family
Saint Clair Estate Wines is a family business with the next generation also involved.
Son Tony looks after the design and branding. Tony has his own design consultancy business, The Creative Method, in Surry Hills, Sydney. Tony designed the original Saint Clair labels back in 1994, when he was a design student. He has been designing and expanding the range of Saint Clair labels ever since.
Daughters Sarina and Julie both work within the business in sales and marketing after studying Wine Business Marketing at Adelaide University.
Matt Thomson, Consultant Winemaker
Saint Clair has one of the leading winemaking teams in the country headed by Matt Thomson (B.Sc and M.Sc Biochem, Otago). Matt has been involved with Saint Clair since its inception in 1994. He also has had winemaking experience on a regular basis in a number of areas in Italy and in Bordeaux.
Matt is uncompromising on quality. Comparatively little emphasis is placed on technological gadgetry. This natural, uncluttered approach helps produce wines with distinctive characters, which are clearly appreciated by an increasingly sophisticated wine drinking public in an increasing number of world markets.
Up until harvest Matt spends most of his time monitoring the changing flavour profile of the grapes. He notes the difference in flavour between bunches and between the different vineyard areas to ensure that they are picked at optimum time. Neal says, “Matt has a great palate and tremendous skill for optimising these grape flavours at harvest.”
Matt’s skills and the time he spends in the vineyard are extremely important in Saint Clair’s viticulture and winemaking process and they are being rewarded through the outstanding quality of their wines.
Hamish Clark, Senior Winemaker
Hamish Clark is the winery’s senior winemaker and has worked for Saint Clair since 2001. He works alongside Matt Thomson leading the winemaking team. Hamish has a unique background with a BSC in Microbiology and BSC in Zoology from Otago University. He gained a significant placement in an experienced team in the DNA Forensics Department with the Forensic Science Services at the Home Office UK. He also worked as a Medical Laboratory Assistant in various hospitals across the continent while he indulged his passion for wine.
Hamish has held a range of positions at Saint Clair including Lab Manager and Cellar Hand in 2001, Assistant Winemaker and Lab Manager in 2002 and Red Wine Winemaker from 2003 until 2006. Hamish is very passionate about the wines he makes for Saint Clair and is a key member of the winemaking team.
Saint Clair Reserve Range – (the best of the best) The Reserve wines are Saint Clair’s finest, representing the highest quality across seven wine styles. Grapes for the Reserve labels are specially selected and handcrafted by the winemaking team into wines of exceptional character and uncompromising quality.
Saint Clair Pioneer Block Range – (Single vineyard wines) Saint Clair Pioneer Block wines are made from small parcels of outstanding fruit from specialist vineyard sites prized for their individual terroir characteristics.
Cellar door information
The newly renovated establishment is situated within a unique vineyard setting with views extending past the vines towards the ever changing and dramatic Richmond Range.
The sunny courtyard offers outdoor dining with some dining options amongst the vines. On a cooler day an extended veranda section can ensure customers continue to have the vineyard feel while being sheltered from the elements through extensive floor to ceiling glass sliding doors. A cosy fire provides ambience and warmth during the New Zealand winter, an ideal settling to relax and enjoy Saint Clair’s award winning wines.
A perfect place for a visit for morning or afternoon tea with a selection of muffins and hot drinks available all day.
The extensive menu constantly changes reflecting some of the best seasonal produce and finest delicacies Marlborough as to offer. There are a range of options available to meet any dietary requirements.
The wine tasting counter is an area to discover the diversity of Saint Clair with a large selection of award winning wines available for tasting daily via an impressive wine preservation system.
In addition to these wines there is an extensive range of craft beers from kiwi breweries including Pan Head, Parrot Dog and Marlborough’s own Renaissance. A couple of different flavours of locally produced Adam and Eve Cider are also on offer and New Zealand owned brands make up the eclectic array of non-alcoholic beverages.
The Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen is available for private functions and offers catering options to suit all budgets with flexibility to ensure a successful event. Please contact us to discuss further.
When visiting the Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen make sure you cross the car park to Pātaka – a gourmet food store proudly specialising in New Zealand artisan food and offering uniquely New Zealand inspired gifts.
VINEYARD KITCHEN OPENING HOURS
7 days per week from 9.00am to 5.00pm
Winter hours (1 May to 30 September) 10.00am to 4.00pm
The Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen is CLOSED on the following public holidays: Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday and Anzac Day morning.
Saint Clair Family Estate Vineyard Kitchen
Corner of Rapaura & Selmes Road
E: [email protected]lair.co.nz
P: 03 570 5280
Find out more information at Stclairwinery.com