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Delhi Wine Club
Winemaker from Saint Clair

Posted: Thursday, 15 November 2012 17:40

Passing By: Winemaker from Saint Clair

November 15: With just a handful of New Zealand Wines in the Indian Market, Saint Clair Wines truly stand out. Chief Winemaker of this family owned winery, Matt Thomson, was at Arola Restaurant in JW Marriot, Mumbai last Thursday with three of his premium wines, not only “to give information, but to take some knowledge” back as well. Our Mumbai Correspondent Rishi Vohra CSW, reports.

Saint Clair Wines came into being in 1994, stemmed from the passion and viticulture knowledge of Neal and Judy Ibbotson. Based in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, Saint Clair Family Estate has steadily been producing quality and award-winning wines. The Estate produces a wine range of varieties - Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah, available in four ranges – the Reserve Range, the Pioneer Blocks, the Premium Range and Vicar’s Choice.

Matt Thomson has been The Chief Winemaker of St. Clair since its inception. His winemaking experience is extensive, and further accentuated by regular stints at a number of areas in Italy and Bordeaux.The three wines presented by Matt were the Chardonnay Marlborough 2011, Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2011 and Pinot Noir Marlborough 2010. These three wines have been imported into India by Wine Park recently; the response by Indian Consumers has met Matt’s expectations. He says, “Our cold climate growths and acidity is a very strong option for the spicy foods here. The biggest advantage of our wines is that there are no strong tannins.” Saint Clair Wines hit the Indian market in 2007 and have been enjoying consumer appreciation ever since. Matt agrees with the worldwide perception that smaller wineries make better wines. “Our approach is different. We have smaller presses and smaller tanks. And we keep our production small. This enables us to control our quality more effectively.”

Tasting wines

According to Matt, their Chardonnay Marlborough 2011 is a good example of the Marlborough region’s potential, prompted by soil and terroir and they really have to work hard to get this wine right. This grape does well in the clay soils of the southern valleys with long sunshine hours and cooler nights giving it a good concentration of flavour. The result is a Chardonnay with a strong peach characteristic with moderate oak giving it a lingering finish. The alcohol level is at 14% and the wine would match well with salads, seafood, and light Indian curries.

The Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2011 has hints of peach, pineapple, passion fruit, and minerals. The highlight of this wine is its wide array of flavours that can last for minutes in the mouth. The alcohol level was at 13% and the wine would pair well with pastas and seafood, maybe even Indian vegetarian food.

The Pinot Noir Marlborough 2011 displays a good blend of elegance and fruit. The aroma emits cherries and raspberries with perfumed notes. On the palate, its starts off with cherry flavours with a combination of well textured tannins and well-balanced acidity, and ends with a coffee finish. Matt went on to explain, “This Pinot Noir can be enjoyed young or be left to age. It has the potential to mature into a more complex wine that can be enjoyed for the next five years.” This wine would pair well with red meat dishes, especially strongly flavoured mutton dishes. Alcohol level-13.5%.

Wine Park Proprietor, Vishal Kadakia says, “Everyone loves both the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from Saint Clair. This is evident from the fact that it is widely listed across hotels and restaurants in India including Four Seasons, Taj Group of Hotels, ITC, Olive and Indigo.”

Vishal is very confident of Saint Clair’s wines’ long-term potential in India on many counts. He says, “They are new world wines and India is drinking more of them.  Also, they are varietals; both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are very popular varietals in India. In addition, they are pocket-friendly and not too expensive. Above all, these wines are very aromatic and easy on the palate which is important for a new wine drinking country.” 

At their low MRPs and reasonable prices at establishments, Saint Clair Wines are a great deal, and very versatile when it comes to pairing with cuisines. Besides, with an expert such as award-winning winemaker Matt Thomson at the helm of affairs, one can expect nothing less than a fine wine experience. We think  Saint Clair wines are definitely here to stay!

Rishi Vohra, CSW.

Rishi Vohra is the Mumbai Correspondent for DelWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators, USA. He has done an MBA in Sustainable Business from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law from WWF-India. His debut fiction novel, ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai,’ was released recently  in bookstores and is already a bestseller.


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