The grapes to produce Merlot Pioneer Block 17 Plateau Block Saint Clair were destemmed and underwent a five day cold soak to help extract the maximum flavour and to enhance the colour stability. The Merlot Pioneer Block 17 Plateau Block Saint Clair juice was inoculated with specialised yeasts to start fermentation, during which the fermenting must was hand plunged up to four times daily and pumped over the skins to help with extraction. The young wine was kept in contact with skins and tasted daily until the desired levels of extraction and balance were achieved; then gently pressed. Once settled it was racked to 26% new and 74% seasoned French oak barrels where it underwent malolactic fermentation. After ageing on light lees, the wine was blended, fined, balanced and carefully prepared for bottling.
This outstanding fruit was sourced from a single vineyard within the Gimblett Gravels winegrowing area of Hawke’s Bay. The vigour moderating, free draining gravel provides a superb base for this low yielding Merlot. This vineyard site has ideal ripening conditions for achieving the full aromatic profile and tannin structure that Merlot can give. The fruit was carefully monitored during ripening and harvested in the cool evening at maximum flavour maturity and physiological ripeness.
The Saint Clair winery is run from 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”.