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So far, the 2011s show plenty of promise and some pretty terrific wines and values. At the top of the list, not surprisingly, is Saint Clair. Saint Clair winemaker Matt Thomson is passionate about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and he's exploring the region in depth with the Pioneer Block series, which focuses on select parcels and vineyard sites. I like those wines very much but the reserve bottling is truly the standout - aromatic and elegant, and wonderfully delicious.
Pioneer Block 4 Sawcut Chardonnay 2008
WINEMAKER: Matt Thomson
Region:The Ure Valley is about 40 km south of Blenheim. This is an area which is a narrow valley floor protected by hills on three sides and has a very close proximity to the Eastern Coast. It has a unique micro climate and is ideally suited to the production of top-quality wine.
Soils: Free draining river valley alluvial soils. This valley is noted for its very high limestone content.
Topography: Flat, on a plateau within the narrow valley.
Climate: Quite a warm site, despite it being significantly south. It has a similar number of growing degree days as Blenheim.
Vine Age: Approximately 10 years old.
Regional Characteristics & contribution to Uniqueness of Flavours: The high pH soil and limestone soil impacts significantly on the flavour of this wine, and ensures it has great palate weight and fruit intensity. It also contributes to the mineral note you can taste on the palate.
Viticulture:Grapes from a site in the lower Brancott Valley. The fruit was sourced from a single vineyard on the free draining river valley soils of the Ure Valley. The grapes are 100 per cent Clone 95 Chardonnay, a clone that originates in Burgundy.
Winemaking:The fruit was hand-picked when it had reached full physiological ripeness and maximum flavour maturity. At the winery the fruit was whole bunch pressed. The free run and pressing components were kept separate to ensure fruit flavours were preserved. After settling, the juice was fermented naturally using indigenous winery yeast strains. The wine was 100 per cent barrel fermented in 50 per cent new and 50 per cent seasoned French Oak. The wine then went through malolactic fermentation, followed by 10 months ageing on yeast lees with regular stirring. The wine was then carefully blended, stabilised and prepared for bottling.
Aroma:Lifted aromas of nectarine and white peach, with a hint of spicy oak.
Palate:This elegant chardonnay shows flavours of nectarine and white peach, supported by underlying minerality and spicy oak characters.
Cellaring:Drinking well now and patient cellaring will reward over the next one to five years.
Alcohol: 13% v/v, Titratable Acidity: 6.1g/litre, pH: 3.44.
Food Match:Perfect on its own or as an accompaniment to chicken and pasta dishes.
- Silver, Bragato Wine Awards