Tales from Saint Clair Family Estate

Tales from Saint Clair Family Estate

Saint Clair Awatere Vineyard
Left Conatiner


Saint Clair Family Estate is owned and operated by Marlborough viticultural pioneers Neal and Judy Ibbotson. Neal showed interest in farming in his early years choosing to study for a Rural Management/Valuation diploma at Lincoln University. 

It was the talk of the town 37 years ago 1978, when the first year of contract grape planting commenced in Marlborough. After seeing an advertisement in the local paper searching for grape growers, Neal and Judy were prompted to plant three hectares on their New Renwick Road property. A trip to Montana was made for rooted cuttings of Muller Thurgau. No Sauvignon Blanc or grafted vines in those days, as very few people in Marlborough had ever heard of either and did not understand the risk of Phylloxera.

In between his day job, Neal would spend his weekends cultivating and marking out the land in preparation for the vine planting. Once the land was prepared, Judy organised a team of five women to assist in planting and tending the young vines. Judy and her team would gather up the pre-schoolers and equip themselves with a bucket of plants and a trowel to hand plant the endless rows.

Harry in Grapes

New Vines

A desire to extend the quality achieved in the vineyard through to the finished wine, led to the establishment of the brand Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994.

Saint Clair commenced their long-term partnership with Negociants New Zealand exactly 10 years ago in February 2005. In a news article surrounding this collaboration, Saint Clair Managing Director Neal Ibbotson commented “the move is an opportunity to further build the profile of our wines within New Zealand. Saint Clair has a growing reputation in the New Zealand market and the company is highly respected for the consistent quality of our wines.”

Saint Clair certainly has grown in both export markets and the New Zealand market and has now firmly cemented themselves as a leading New Zealand wine producer.

Negociants NZ embraced the Saint Clair portfolio including the newly released Vicar’s Choice range. This ‘lifestyle’ range of wines is now widely distributed amongst supermarkets, independent retail and on premise establishments all over New Zealand and has become the standard ‘go to’ wine among many households wanting to purchase an easy drinking wine style that won’t break the bank. 

In 2005 the handcrafted specialist Saint Clair Pioneer Block range was launched. Grapes expressing their individual terroir are handcrafted by the winemaking team to produce high quality wines from specific vineyard sites. This range sits at the prestige end of the global wine market. Negociants NZ embraced these wines and introduced them to their trade accounts and hence the consumer. The range has grown quickly and the wines are now seen in top hotels, restaurants and fine wine stores throughout New Zealand and in many markets throughout the world.

The building and development of the Saint Clair portfolio including within the New Zealand market is a tribute to the hard working commitment and dedication of the Negociants sales team.

Julie Ibbotson