Former Montana winemaker Jeff Clarke has been appointed winemaker at Ara Wines.
Damian Martin, one of the founders of Ara and a highly-respected figure in the New Zealand wine establishment, is leaving Ara.
Ara chief executive Christine Pears said ‘Damian has made a considerable contribution to the establishment of Ara and we wish him all the best for the future.’
Clarke, who was winemaker at Marlborough’s Montana – now Brancott Estate – for 17 years, is an authority on Sauvignon Blanc and has been instrumental its development in New Zealand.
He was ‘one of the pioneers of the understanding of Marlborough terroir and the three sub-appellations of Northern Wairau, Southern Valleys and Awatere’, a statement says.
Ara produces single-estate Marlborough wines, which have steadily gained international recognition since they were first released in the early part of the decade.
The founders’ idea was to combine the best of Old World and New World practices to produce New Zealand’s first ‘grand cru’ wines, from a unique alluvial plain in Marlborough.
Its first Sauvignon Blanc was the 2006, which a Decanter panel described as ‘contemporary’ and ‘lean and mineral’ with ‘finesse and balance…a step up from the often sweet gooseberry fruit New Zealand is famous for.’
Ara now produces several levels of Sauvignon and Pinot Noir: the Single Estate, the Pathway, Composite and Resolute.
Clarke said, ‘I’m excited by the opportunity to both work with the enthusiastic and talented team at Ara, and to create Marlborough’s leading single estate wines.’
Pears added, ‘After focusing primarily on the vineyard for the first few years, it is a logical step for us to make sure we have the best winemaking expertise on board. There are few, if any, winemakers in New Zealand with Jeff’s outstanding track record and wealth of experience.’
Written by Adam Lechmere