Founded 30 years ago by viticulturists Neal and Judy Ibbotson, the New Zealand winery has played a pivotal role in shaping the story of Marlborough wines. Today, the family-owned estate produces a portfolio of site-expressive wines, including the award-winning Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.



The passion project of viticulture pioneers Neal and Judy Ibbotson, Saint Clair was founded in 1994 with the aim of showcasing the best of Marlborough’s terroir and expertise. Less than a decade later, its Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc earned global recognition for its exceptional quality – a real breakthrough for the Marlborough wine region.

True trailblazers, the Ibbotsons have combined their deep knowledge of Marlborough and its unique terroir with attention to detail in viticulture. The Saint Clair team visits and grades every parcel separately at each vintage, using blending as a technique to deliver an exact wine style with a distinct identity.

Saint Clair has grown to farm 160 hectares and is now one of the largest family-owned wineries in New Zealand, with a portfolio that stands out among Marlborough wines for its elegance and restraint.


Neal and Judy Ibbotson embarked on their viticultural journey in the 1970s by cultivating grapes on their modest rural property in Marlborough, New Zealand. They initially supplied local winemakers before bottling their first vintage under the name Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994. The wine garnered immediate acclaim.

The path to success wasn’t easy though. The Ibbotsons had invested their all into the winery, and as a family, including their three children, they toiled tirelessly to tend to the vines and oversee the operations of the cellars. In the early days, Judy even rallied a team of local women to help plant and nurture the young vines.

Marlborough was yet to be recognized for its wines, yet Neal and Judy knew its potential for winegrowing, and they were steadfast on finding a unique wine identity for Saint Clair. This involved extensive blind tastings and evaluation of the estate’s wines – a process which remains at the core of Saint Clair’s winemaking philosophy.

“Marlborough’s diverse soils and micro-climates were starting to reveal exciting new sub-regions and flavors,” Neal recalls. “We came to realize that the future of quality wine was within these unique sub-regions, and we looked for locations, soil types, sub regions, which would give us superior quality flavors.”

The turning point for Saint Clair came in 2000 with the release of the Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. With its unique flavor profile and impeccable craftsmanship, the wine established Saint Clair as a leading producer in the region and helped Marlborough’s reputation as a world-class wine destination.

In 2005, Saint Clair achieved global recognition when it was honored with the prestigious “New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year” at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC). It acknowledged the winery’s unwavering commitment to crafting high-quality wines, with particular emphasis on its Sauvignon Blanc portfolio.

Saint Clair continues to thrive as a family business, with Neal and Judy Ibbotson at its helm, alongside their children Sarina, Julie and Tony, each contributing their unique skills and expertise to the winery. Sarina and Julie oversee the day-to-day running of the business and play integral roles in marketing, while Tony lends his creative flair to the design of labels and packaging.

“We are of the biased view that the right areas of Dillons Point have arguably the best soil for Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough”

– Neal Ibbotson


Established: 1994
Proprietor: Neal and Judy Ibbotson
Winemakers: Stewart MacLennan, Jarrah Prior
Managing directors: Sarina and Julie Ibbotson
Packaging and design: Tony Ibbotson

Situated on the north-eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Marlborough’s dry maritime climate, warm days and cool nights, along with its free-draining soils, are ideal conditions for winegrowing. Saint Clair farms 160 hectares of vineyards across the sub-regions in the Wairau, Awatere and Southern Valleys. Each offers a unique microclimate that maximizes the potential of the grapes.

Early in the story of Saint Clair, Neal and Judy identified Dillons Point as ideal for growing Sauvignon Blanc. The Pacific Ocean to the east brings cooler maritime climate with an easterly afternoon breeze, which lowers the summer heat and causes temperature fluctuations. This means slower fruit ripening, a longer growing season and hang time, allowing the vines to express their intense flavors.

“The right areas of Dillons Point have arguably the best soil for Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough,” says Neal. His team saw a unique spectrum of flavor compounds from these soils, known as “Volatile Thiols” or flavors of passionfruit. Salt-driven characters are also evident within the wine, due to the low-lying nature of the soils and their proximity to the ocean.

In 2005 Saint Clair opened its boutique winery. The facility boasts a fully equipped cellar room capable of housing the estate’s 320 small tanks. Adjacent to the cellar, a state-of-the-art bottling plant was constructed, facilitating the direct bottling of wines from the tanks. Meanwhile, with hospitality central to the winery, the Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen offers food and wine tastings with a seasonal menu focused on fresh local produce.



Saint Clair’s winemaking philosophy begins with the meticulous selection of the estate’s highest quality grapes. The process involves blind quality wine scoring, conducted across all 320 small tanks in the cellar. It means that each wine is evaluated objectively, with a focus on maintaining and enhancing quality at every step – from identifying the best vineyards to farm, to mixing in the cellar.

Since 2001 Saint Clair has been conducting a “grading system” across all the vineyards to see which sites provide the best fruit, and which varieties produce the best quality in each of the plots. The grading system is also used as a management tool for identifying and improving best vineyard practices, and for payments to growers.

The winery is certified sustainable under the “Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand” program. In the vineyard, Saint Clair employs a minimal use of vineyard sprays; the vine canopy is carefully managed to allow for ample light penetration and airflow, promoting healthy vine growth and optimal grape ripening.

Techniques such as leaf plucking, fruit and shoot thinning, and meticulous fruit selection are utilized for high-quality grape production while minimizing waste. Following harvest, the grapes are swiftly transported from the vineyard to the press, then to tanks and barrels, to preserve the fruit’s freshness, quality and unique characteristics.


Maze Row imports two wines from Saint Clair Family Estate: Saint Clair Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc and Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.


Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc
Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
Back to Top