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Jeff Clarke will make Ara ‘standout’

Jeff Clarke, the new winemaker at New Zealand’s Ara, intends to keep the unique style of the winery while making it more of a ‘standout’ wine.

Clarke feels that the wines – from the unique alluvial Ara plain in Marlborough – have been ‘missing a little bit of recognisability in competitions’.

‘They’ve been aromatically quiet – it hasn’t been a sufficiently standout wine,’ was how the winemaker, who took over from Ara founder Damian Martin earlier this year, described the wines.

‘We want the microclimate and the terroir to show through,’ he told Decanter.com at the London International Wine Fair today.

‘We are going to increase the aromatics without changing the structure of the wine so that it’s recognisable Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc but it retains the characteristics of the terroir.’

Clarke stressed that Martin – who was said to be ‘shellshocked’ by leaving the winery he founded in the mid-2000s – was the ‘overarching driver of the project’. He said it was not his brief to ‘come in and change unique single vineyard wines’.

His responsibility, he said, was to ‘re-connect with expectations of what a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc should be like’.

Ara would continue to follow ‘old world viticultural practices’, chiefly in terms of very gentle irrigation regimes, allowing roots to grow as deep as possible in order to ‘build in extra layers of concentration.’

Clarke was winemaker at Marlborough’s Montana – now Brancott Estate – for 17 years. He is an authority on Sauvignon Blanc and has been instrumental its development in New Zealand.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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