Neal and Judy Ibbotson began growing grapes in Marlborough in 1978 and started making wine under their Saint Clair label in 1994. Since then, they’ve clocked up hundreds of awards and earned an international reputation for crafting quality wines. Yet something had always eluded Neal: Saint Clair had never crafted a traditional sparkling wine.
The perfect opportunity presented itself, however, as his mother Dawn, a fiercely independent Gore-born gardener, great grandmother, public speaker, campaigner, lover of large earrings, fundraiser, avid texter and cricket and rugby fan, drew close to her 100th birthday.
In 2012, chardonnay and pinot noir fruit was harvested, crushed, fermented, blended and put aside for a couple of years, ready for the corks to be popped when she hit that milestone. “I really enjoyed the entire process, from hand-picking the grapes to seeing the final product,” says winemaker Stewart Maclennan.
“As this was our first time creating a methode traditionnelle, there was a certain amount of apprehension but that also made it exciting. It was four years in the making so at times it was difficult to be patient but it was worth the wait. We are incredibly proud of the end result.”
Today, the wine (dubbed “Dawn”) has been released to the public. Neal’s happy – he has his bubbles and Dawn herself is due to turn 102 this year. She still lives in her own house and loves a daily glass of wine – fantastic.