Featured Reviews

Saint Clair 2016 Omaka Reserve Chardonnay and Pioneer Block 17 Merlot

22 March,2018

uintSaint Clair have no qualms about their admiration for the Villa Maria Group’s success at wine judging competitions. In talking to the Ibbotson family, they say they wish to emulate how Villa Maria wins so many top awards. By my reckoning, Saint Clair are very successful too, winning their fair share (and more) of gold medals and trophies, both here in New Zealand and overseas. They don’t quite match Villa Maria, but more often than not are in the next tier down of winning producers. This is no mean feat for a moderately sized family operation which is up against the larger producers with greater vineyard and winemaking resources. I know the Ibbotsons do not skimp on anything for quality, and it really does show in the wines.

The 2018 Royal Easter Show Wine Awards was a happy hunting ground again for Saint Clair, winning three gold medals for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot, and a trophy for the Merlot, the latter wine from the company’s Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay vineyard. Here I review the Saint Clair ‘Omaka Reserve’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2016, a gold medal winner, and Saint Clair ‘Pioneer Block 17 – Plateau’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2016, a gold medal and trophy winner, both at the Royal Easter Show this year. www.saintclair.co.nz


Saint Clair ‘Omaka Reserve’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2016

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Marlborough


Bright, even straw-yellow colour with slight green hues, pale on the rim. The nose is very full and broad, and solidly concentrated with aromas of ripe citrus fruits, yellow stonefruits and tropical fruits entwined with powerful and deep nutty oak, unfolding creamy barrel-ferment, flint, mealy and toasty detail with some butterscotch MLF. This has layers of complexity. Medium-full bodied, the palate is fulsome with deeply rich flavours of ripe yellow stonefruits, savoury citrus fruits and tropical fruit melded with a layering of creamy barrel-ferment and oak vanillins, along with nuances of nuts, flint and oxidative detail, unveiling mealy and buttery nuances. The palate is very accessible with a rounded core, and the flavours carry with good drive to a long, rich and sustained finish. This is a mouthfilling, complex flavoured, near over-the-top Chardonnay with citrus and tropical fruits, along with nutty, creamy, mealy and flinty detail. Serve with roast pork over the next 4+ years. A blend of Mendoza and clone 95 Chardonnay fruit, primarily from the Omaka Valley, hand-picked, WBP and fully barrel-fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 10 months on lees in 50% new American oak, undergoing batonnage and MLF. 19.0/20 Mar 2018 RRP $37.90

Saint Clair ‘Pioneer Block – 17 Plateau’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2016

Merlot from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Very dark, near impenetrable black-hued purple-red colour, a little lighter on the edge. The nose is full, solid and densely packed with aromas of ripe blackberries and black plums entwined with spice notes, some black liquorice, ink and a layering of iron-earth minerals, unfolding some nutty and pencilly oak. This is rich, savoury and complex. Medium-full bodied, the palate has rich and lusciously vibrant flavours of ripe black plum fruit with complexing notes of savoury, nutty oak, black liquorice, dark herbs and iron-earth minerals. The palate has great presence and depth, the fruit with vitality, supported by fine, grainy tannin structure and balanced acidity. The flavours carry with strength and power to a full, deep and sustained finish of black plums and earth. This is a solid, lusciously rich, complex-flavoured Merlot with black plum, nutty oak and earth, with plenty of structure. Merlot fruit from the ‘Plateau’ vineyard on Omahu Road, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 11 months in 26% new French oak. 19.0-/20 Mar 2018 RRP $37.90

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