Winemaker Profile: Hamish Clark, Saint Clair

Saint Clair’s senior winemaker Hamish Clark has been at the winery for 13 years. The Zoology graduate worked his way up from the position of cellar hand in 2001 and is now a key member of the winemaking team. Here he shares his thoughts on Saint Clair, foie gras and conquering Everest.

What sustains your love of wine?
The diversity of the role. You can be in the vineyard one day with work gear on, and the next day in a foreign market helping to sell the wine.

What was the last wine you consumed?
2000 Fromm La Strada Magnum

What’s the best wine you’ve ever consumed?
December 2004 at Verses Bar in old town Montreal. Mid-winter, snowing outside, eating the best Fois Gras I’ve tasted with a Borgogno Barolo Riserva ‘98. This was a eureka moment, I now understand why people call this variety ‘the wine of kings’. Funnily enough a year or so later I had the chance to re-taste the same vintage of this wine and my expectation was not met to the same degree – goes to show how important the ‘situation’ is to the overall impression of quality, or maybe the quality was bruised a little in bottle.

Can you sum up your winery in three words?
Dynamic, efficient and family

What’s the best part of the winemaking process?
Vintage, with the buzz and the hype that goes with it. This is where the most significant part of the wine’s potential is realised.

What’s the worst part of the winemaking process?
Only getting to put into practice 12 months later the things you have learnt from this vintage.

Tell us something about Saint Clair that nobody knows?
We have a very large underground cellar built into the hill of one of our vineyards.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Not getting into the industry five years earlier than what I did as the opportunities to invest in good vineyard sites in Marlborough were abundant. Hindsight is a great thing. 

Which unknown varieties will be big in 2020?
The million dollar question… if you find out let me know and we’ll plant some now in time for 2020.

What music do you listen when making wine?
The sweet sound of the Bucher Press Choir… I don’t’ consciously listen to music, it tends to fade into the ‘ambient’ spectrum of vintage noise.

Who is your wine hero?
Eban Sadie, he’s got a great attitude toward winemaking and even more so of viticulture. This guy makes some amazing wines.

Who is your sporting hero?
Sir Ed Hilary for “knocking the bastard off”.

Who is your favourite Superhero?
Felonius Gru

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