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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.
Vineyards & Viticulture
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.
Saint Clair Vineyard Locations
Neal Ibbotson’s mastery of grape growing lies behind Saint Clair’s expanding international profile.
Michael Cooper, Cuisine, January 2006
Saint Clair Vineyards
Click on the thumbnails below to view Saint Clair Vineyards
Doctor's Creek Vineyard
At Doctor’s Creek Vineyard, Neal and Judy’s key varieties are Sauvignon Blanc Riesling and Pinot Noir. They have successfully experimented with top grafting Pinot Noir (using Dijon clones) in adjoining properties, where more clay under the sub-soil is providing some intense and interesting flavours.
Doctor's Creek Vineyard Location
Awatere Valley Vineyard
The Awatere Valley, with its silt loam over deep sandstone, provides more mineral flavours in the wines. Here Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay predominate, although some of their Sauvignon Blanc has been re-planted with Pinot Gris, to learn more about the variety in this vineyard.
Awatere Valley Vineyard Location
Rapaura’s free draining alluvial soils, with a narrow band of top soil above stones, have been mulched in parts and irrigated according to soil type, to create an evenness across the vineyard to provide consistency of flavours. Merlot has proved to be very successful at this site, producing a number of trophies and Gold Medals. All of the original Chardonnay and a portion of the Sauvignon Blanc have been top grafted to Merlot and more recently Pinot Gris.
Rapaura Vineyard Location
Saint Clair’s Omaka Vineyard, where the climate is slightly warmer by day, but cooler by night, and where the soil is more compacted and contains more clay, has proved very successful for Mendoza Chardonnay and more recently Pinot Noir. A small amount of Bactobel clone, Pinot Noir, unsuitable for quality Pinot Noir has been top grafted to Chardonnay.
Omaka Vineyard Location
Strip Block Vineyard
Known as The Strip Vineyard, after a unique narrow strip of aged, devigourating clay soils, located at the base of the Southern foothills of the lower Waihopai Valley.
This vineyard is 100% Pinot Noir, clones 6, 777 &115 and was selected as one of Marlboroughs best Pinot Noir sites.
Purchased in 2007, from the Delta Wine Company, who in 2006 were awarded the Trophy's at the Air NZ Wine Awards for the champion Pinot Noir and champion wine of the show.
Strip Block Vineyard Location