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St Clair Wines, Aromatic and Elegant

Saint_Clair_Awatere(med) MED.jpgIt may be Matt Thomson's first visit to India, but the chief winemaker of Saint Clair estate in Marlborough, New Zealand, has been suitably impressed so far, writes Naina Hiranandani, who met him in Mumbai for Sommelier India."The hotels we've been to in Mumbai have maintained really selective wine lists. And even the style of service, appropriate stemware and storage have all been up to the mark," he smiles. Pictured: St Clair vineyards in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand

On 8th November, Wine Park conducted a small tasting of three Saint Clair wines at Arola, JW Marriott in Mumbai. First up: Sauvignon Blanc 2011. A star wine, it has consistently won medals and even bagged the trophy for White Wine at the India Wine Challenge in 2010. It's a blend primarily from a sub-region called Dillon's Point in the Wairau Valley.

Matt believes "terroir is extremely important" and explained how alluvial soils with loose sand below, impart notes of passion fruit, gooseberry, black currant and even a subtle mineral-like saltiness into the wines. The pale, straw-coloured Sauvignon Blanc was crisp with strong notes of guava, producing a very elegant finish on the palate. The Chardonnay 2009, by contrast, was a deep yellow, very fruity, with prominent notes of peach.

Saint Clair's garnet-hued Pinot Noir 2011 is typical of New World style wines - full-bodied without being too intense or rich. The typical Marlborough climate is conducive to producing these kinds of results. "We have cool winds, intense sun and low humidity," says Matt. Pinot Noir is fermented in low-toast oak, is less fruity, but wonderfully perfumed with a feminine character.

Matt also explained their less well-known approach in winemaking. The winery uses small, open-top tanks that are hand-plunged. This produces a more homogenous result, but in addition, allows a tiny percentage of alcohol to vaporise. He reveals, "In taller tanks, there is more stratification. The top of the tank is a lot warmer than the bottom. The yeast in Pinot tanks can die if it's too hot and too cold. It's possible to have much better results in smaller tanks, where the difference in temperature is far less."

Prices start at Rs 2,700. Wines are imported by Wine Park, Mumbai. Inquiries, (022) 28516621


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