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Saint Clair Launches ‘Dawn’ Methode Traditionnelle

By April 29, 2016No Comments

The Ibbotsons of Saint Clair are a remarkable New Zealand wine family. Originally a farm advisor, Neal Ibbotson became one of the pioneering grape growers in Marlborough, establishing with his wife Judy, their family’s ‘Saint Clair’ label based on the most successful variety in the region, Sauvignon Blanc. Ever pushing the boundaries, Saint Clair now show themselves to be masters of all the classical varieties and styles, and leaders in emerging wine types. The breadth of the Saint Clair portfolio is matched by the depth, and their multi-tier system from accessible ‘Vicar’s Choice’, varietally and regionally expressive ‘Premium’ brand is topped by the individual and terroir-based ‘Pioneer Block’ wines and the ‘flagship ‘Reserves’. www.saintclair.co.nz

The next generation of Ibbotsons, daughters Sarina and Julie, and son Tony are all involved intimately in the business, so the issue of succession, which Neal is very aware of from his farm advisor days, is largely under control. The next generation have inherited Neal and Judy’s family ethics, boundless enthusiasm, work principles, attention to detail, staff inclusion, and most importantly sense of fun. It was with this approach that Saint Clair have added a method traditionnelle wine to their portfolio. Methode Traditionnelle wines are of course, among the most complicated to produce well. The project has been four years in the making, and had input from all of the staff in its development. The wine is named after Neal’s mother Dawn, now 101 years old, and resident in Dunedin.

Stu Maclennan – winemaker, Saint Clair
The Launch and Taste of ‘Dawn’
The Saint Clair ‘Dawn’ Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle 2012 was officially launched at a party on the evening of Friday 29 April, at the Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen on Selmes Road. I was lucky to be invited with select media, to join the Ibbotson’s family, staff and friends at the launch. Neal Ibbotson unveiled the wine with particular reference to his mother, who though was not present, had sent words on the wine named after her. The wine was served with oysters and prawns, whitebait fritters, fish cakes and other food deemed perfect with good sparkling wine.

I spoke to winemaker Stu Maclennan who had taken ‘Dawn’ on as ‘his baby’, though he readily acknowledged the work of all the team in making the wine, as well as the staff at No. 1 Family Estate, about the technical detail. The wine is approx. 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, the fruit coming from the ‘Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen Vineyard, hand-picked and fermented, the wine going through MLF and aged just under 36 months on lees. It is 12.5% alc. and has 6.5 g/L dosage. In taste, it is pale-coloured (in the light available) and very refined and elegant in expression. The wine shows more Chardonnay florals and citrus fruits for sure. On palate, the wine is clear and pure, with subtle, but positive bready autolysis. The feature for me is the fine phenolic textures. This has ideal finesse in that regard. It retails at $49.00. Saint Clair will be sending me a bottle for review under more stringent conditions, but I have a good feeling for this.

The 2012 vintage of ‘Dawn’ is the first of a continued line. There is a 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintage in the works. The 2014 includes a small portion of Pinot Meunier obtained locally. We discussed the publishing of disgorgement dates as well as bottlings with further time on lees. There is actually a quantity of the 2012 put aside for aging 5 years on lees. Also talked about was the possibility of Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs. Knowing the Ibbotston style, these points had already been discussed and were under consideration.

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