Wine of the week… Inspiration behind the wine Dawn

What will you be doing when you’re 104 years old?

It’s a tough question at the best of times, not least because most of us probably don’t expect to make it that far, but retired school teacher and once keen tramper, Dawn Ibbotson, has the ultimate answer. She enjoys a glass of bubbly every lunch time, which is named after her.

The word on the grapevine is that she would prefer to enjoy more than one glass but she still heeds the moderation advice given to her. And if that’s how she got to 104, along with the tramping, public talking and teaching, then who am I to argue.

The new 2015 Dawn is new on the market now.

The quality of the wine remains consistently high, even if the taste represents a slight style departure – it is drier by a small margin, which is noticeable in flavour as this wine seems more restrained and fresh.

It also has a higher percentage of Chardonnay grapes this vintage (65% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier compared to the 2014 Dawn, which was 52% Chardonnay, 43% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier).

I like and miss the higher Pinot Noir percentage of the 2014 Dawn, which I find is more expressive and toasty right now, but the 2015 has possibly a longer life ahead. Which seems like a fitting tribute to the wine’s namesake.


2015 Saint Clair Dawn Méthode Traditionelle $49

Dawn is one of New Zealand’s top traditional method sparkling wines, made in the same way as champagne with its secondary fermentation in the bottle.

The first vintage was from the 2012 harvest and made to celebrate centenarian Dawn Ibbotson’s 100th birthday. Dawn is the mother of Saint Clair winery founder, Neil Ibbotson.

The wine is made from grapes off a 20 year old vineyard on stony and sandy soils on Rapaura Road, overlooked by Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen.

It’s a blend of 65 percent clone 95 Chardonnay, 30 percent clone 5 Pinot Noir and 5 percent Pinot Meunier. The free run Chardonnay juice was steel tank fermented with malolactic fermentation in late spring and lees stirring throughout. The Pinot Noir was lightly pressed and fermented at cool temperatures in seasoned French barriques, then aged on light lees until blending in  January 2014. The wine was then blended with secondary bottle fermentation over three months followed by thirty-nine months  aging before disgorgement to eject the decomposing yeast cells.

Residual sugar in the 2015 Dawn is 6 grams per litre compared to 6.2 grams per litre for the 2014 Saint Clair Dawn Méthode Traditionelle. It’s a small step towards a drier style but a big flavour difference from winemakers Stewart Maclennan and Hamish Clark.

The new Dawn drinks well now and has very good potential for aging and evolving into a fuller, rounder bubbly with more pronounced butterscotch and honey flavours with citrusy freshness for balance.

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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