Saint Clair Family Estate is a family-owned Marlborough winery who are incredibly grateful to have been able to conduct a successful harvest for 2020 vintage despite the challenges of the Corona Virus.
Harvest commenced mid-March, from one of the estate vineyards, with a hand pick, for the bubbles base, to produce Saint Clair Dawn Methode Traditionnelle. The team at the winery awaited the first fruit in the usual vintage anticipation and on arrival the signature Saint Clair bell was rung by owner Judy Ibbotson, to celebrate the first of the new harvest, with a toast and a glass of Dawn for a successful 2020 vintage ahead.
Due to the presence of COVID-19 within New Zealand and its possible rapid spread, on March 24th, the New Zealand government announced that the country was very quickly heading into Alert Level 4 Lockdown, which would commence midnight Wednesday 25th March. The team at Saint Clair waited nervously (like all other wineries in New Zealand) to hear if harvest would be allowed to continue during the lockdown. The announcement came that wineries were considered an ‘essential business’ and vintage could continue. This was considered a huge privilege and Saint Clair took this privilege seriously, immediately putting measures in place to do what was required to continue operations during this time.
This vintage was certainly like no other, with the implementation of various stringent guidelines, procedures and protocols, not only within the winery but also outside of the winery, with strict rules surrounding both transport to and from the winery and accommodation arrangements. Social distancing quickly became the norm.
The winery crew, whilst working tremendously well as a team, welcomed the arrival of some of the best quality fruit they had ever seen. The harvest quality from Saint Clair’s fruit (both Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay) has been exceptional.
A large stretch of classic stunning Marlborough sunshine, with virtually no rain, hence no disease, ensured the perfect fruit was able to be picked in a timely manner over the vintage period as the berries reached their full physiological ripeness.
Warm weather during November and early December 2019, meant flowering was perfect for Sauvignon Blanc, leading to the ideal number of berries and average yields for the season. Temperatures over summer were above average, ensuring a good start to ripening. March produced ideal growing conditions with true Marlborough style of warm days and cool nights. The lower night temperatures assisting with retaining the grape acids. It’s this acid retention along with the ripe fruit flavours, that makes Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc so unique and the reason why it has captured the world’s attention.
With average 2020 vintage yields, previous shortages from the 2019 vintage, particularly for the Pinot Noir and Merlot varieties will be overcome.
Saint Clair has a lot to be proud of. A combined team effort working in extremely unusual circumstances ensured production could continue. Despite the challenging environment surrounding operating during Alert Level 4, the team morale remained high and the focus remained on producing top quality 2020 vintage wines. The wines will be sure to tell their own story once they reach the shelves. Consumers around the globe will anticipate and we believe greatly enjoy their arrival.