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The single vineyard ‘Pioneer Block’ wines of Saint Clair require separate handling, the winery using 250 small tanks to manage this. The amount of detail for winemakers Matt Thomson and Hamish Clark and their team is considerable, but the result is a fascinating range of wines that express their origin and site. In essence Saint Clair is bottling ‘terroir’ for keen wine enthusiasts to ponder and enjoy. The quality per se of the ‘Pioneer Block’ wines has been extremely high as well, reflecting the identification of superior as well as individual vineyards by Saint Clair’s owner Neal Ibbotson.
Raymond Chan


“The great thing about Marlborough is that it has produced for the first time since the war, maybe this century, a flavour which no one’s ever found before.”
Oz Clarke, UK wine writer, Oz Clark’s Wine Atlas

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.

Long sunshine hours and cooler nights develop a flavour concentration which is becoming increasingly evident in Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Merlot, as well as Sauvignon Blanc.

photo © Alex Kenny
photo © Graham Brooks
photos courtesy of "Discover Marlborough"

More information on Marlborough & New Zealand wines: