Neal and Judy Ibbotson were pioneers in the Marlborough wine industry, first planting vineyards in the valley in 1978 and then establishing Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994. They own 160 hectares of vineyard in 10 different Marlborough locations chosen specifically for the attributes of their individual "terroir" and ability to produce top quality grapes. Neal Ibbotson combines his extensive expertise in viticulture with the talent of one of New Zealand's leading winemaking teams led by Hamish Clark. Since 1994, when wines from the first vintage all won medals including gold, the name Saint Clair has been synonymous with quality and its award-winning record continues today. This is a sentiment shared by Bob Campbell MW, who says “Saint Clair now makes the country’s and perhaps the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc”.
The outstanding fruit was sourced predominantly from a single vineyard within the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawkes Bay. The vigour moderating, free draining, gravel soil provides a superb base for the low yielding Merlot. These vineyard sites have ideal ripening conditions for achieving the ripe berry aromatics and balanced tannin structure that Saint Clair Merlot exhibits. The fruit was carefully monitored during ripening; and harvested in the cool evening at maximum flavour maturity and physiological ripeness.
The grapes were destemmed into small stainless steel fermenters for a five-day cold soak to help maximise flavour and colour extraction. During fermentation, the wine was hand plunged and occasionally pumped over to gently extract flavour, colour and tannin. Following primary fermentation, the young wine was kept in contact with skins and tasted daily until the desired levels of extraction and balance had been achieved. Once pressed and settled, the wine was then racked to seasoned French oak where it underwent malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged on its light lees, lightly fined and carefully prepared for bottling.
A combination of dark fruit flavours with black plum and ripe blackberry and a touch of liquorice showing a powdered structure reminiscent of fine dark chocolate leading to a lightly spiced and toasty finish.