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Two Pioneering Releases from New Zealand's Newest Grape Growing Region - The Ure Valley

20 May 2006

Pioneering Releases from New Zealands Newest Grape Growing Region – the Ure Valley Saint Clair Estate Wines is releasing its first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Ure Valley - Saint Clair Pioneer Block 4 Chardonnay and Saint Clair Pioneer Block 4 Pinot Noir – in May 2006. It is not often that you hear about a brand new wine-growing region in New Zealand but that is just what Saint Clair is talking about with the release of two wines from its Pioneer Block Label.

The Ure Valley is an exciting new grape-growing region located 40 km south of Blenheim (or half way between Kaikoura and Blenheim). It has a unique microclimate with the number of degree growing days equivalent to if not higher than Blenheim in most years.

An important part of Saint Clair’s viticulture strategy involves on-going evaluation and experimentation with new vineyard sites throughout the Marlborough region. The Pioneer Block wines are produced as experimental wines, made only in small parcels of 250 to 300 cases.

The terroir is very important to these wines - the vineyard soils, climate and vineyard location sets them apart from the other Saint Clair wines. The vineyards where Pioneer Block 4 wines are sourced from are river flats on the south side of the river. This soil has very high pH and limestone levels, which contributes to the intense flavours of these wines - added mineral characteristics to the Chardonnay and an added smooth violet complexity to the Pinot Noir.

Neal Ibbotson, owner of Saint Clair Estate Wines comments, “Pioneer Block wines are made from small parcels of outstanding fruit identified by our chief winemaker, Matt Thomson. The Ure Valley provides distinctive soil and site, which combine to provide unique flavours and textures to each of the wines. As with any experimental wine the only real problem we have is producing enough to meet demand!”

The first Pioneer Block wines to be released were four parcels of Sauvignon Blanc in November 2005. The Pioneer Block wines will be primarily available in specialist fine wine outlets with Pioneer Block 4 Chardonnay having an RRP of $24.95 and Pioneer Block 4 Pinot Noir an RRP of $29.95.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block wines were first released late last year. The viticulture and winemaking philosophy of the wines is based on Saint Clair’s winemakers identifying small parcels of outstanding fruit where the soil and site combine to provide unique flavours and textures to the wines. It has been decided to keep these ‘small parcel’ wines as a separate brand within the Saint Clair portfolio - Pioneer Block – as these small parcels of wine are about pioneering new regions with a distinct terroir.

About 8km up the Ure Valley is the world renowned Sawcut Gorge walk, (included in the “100 Best Walks in New Zealand”). The walk is up the bed of the Ure River, which is narrow and ends up with walls up to 50 metres high on either side. You then walk through the “Sawcut” out onto another large open area. A fabulous display of native flora and fauna, and a variety of geological structures, is found along the way.