Possibly the most important and best known Italian wine dynasty with over 700 years of history in wine, art, culture and music.
With a firm link to the land, the family is recognised as one of the symbols of Tuscany itself. From introducing international varietals in 1855 to the first Italian-American partnership with Mondavi in 1995, the family has been consistently at the forefront of Tuscan vine-growing for the past 200 years and the emergence of the prestigious Super-Tuscans.
Saint Clair Family Estate has been instrumental in raising New Zealand’s reputation for producing world class wines. Owners, Neal and Judy Ibbotson were part of the first group of viticulture pioneers in Marlborough during the 1970s that fought passionately to secure land that offered ideal growing conditions for the production of top quality grapes.
After supplying grapes to local wine companies for several years, they established the Saint Clair Family Estate in 1994.
Their special grading system and extensive research into identifying the very best sub regions for each grape variety has led the way for ‘terroir’ driven wines.
For years, Carmenère was a variety thought to have been extinct after the phylloxera plague in the 1860s.
The rediscovery of Carmenère at one of Viña Carmen’s vineyards in 1994 has become a real historical milestone for the industry.
Since the variety was unearthed, Carmen has become the driving force behind the development of Carmenère in Chile, propelling it to become Chile’s signature grape. They bottled the first Carmenère blend in 1996.
Château Fortia is one of the oldest estates in the Rhône Valley but it wasn’t until the early 19th Century that then owner Baron Le Roy made the Château’s mark on the history of wine.
Le Roy was the co-founder of the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) who created the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system, which has been adopted in other countries and its impact cannot be underestimated.
The embossed crossed keys and papal tiara logo (La Bouteille Armoriee) you find on the bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape was also developed under Le Roy’s leadership by the Syndicat de Chateauneuf.
Tim Hamilton Russell bought a farm in Hermanus in 1975, convinced the region was ideal for a refined style of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
But to achieve his goal he had to fight a long, hard battle with the KMV to be allowed to plant new decent virus-free clones in the area. He was eventually successful and created a new wine region – the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – which is now recognised as one of the best cool climate regions in South Africa.
His determination to challenge the current system paved the way for the next generation. Sadly Tim Hamilton Russell passed away last year but his contribution to the wine world will endure for generations to come.
This autumn we’re in a storytelling mood which chimes very well with our new Wine Heroes campaign as it’s all about stories; wine and stories.
Wine Heroes looks at the stories behind some of the most exciting wine producers in the world, looking at how these producers have shaped the wine world and paved the way for others to follow.
Within our portfolio, we have some producers who, over the years, have made exceptional differences to the industry – these are our Wine Heroes, and from 1 October to 30 December we’re celebrating these trail-blazing pioneers with a targeted campaign rolled out across Independent Wine Merchants.
Here’s a lowdown on the producers involved and a brief glimpse at why they made the list.
Watch this space for lots more Wine Heroes content including features, interviews, galleries, tasting notes, technical information, videos and more.
Antiyal (Chile): Led the way in biodynamic and organic practices in Chile, and continue to do so
Carmen (Chile): First producer to rediscover Carmenère in 1994 and was the driving force behind its development and getting it recognised as Chile’s signature grape variety
Carpene Malvolti (Italy): First to produce Prosecco by Charmat method
Chateau Fortia (France): Owner Baron Le Roy was co-founder of the INAO who created the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system in early 19th century
Collavini (Italy): Pioneered the fresh, modern style of Pinot Grigio enjoyed today by fermenting the grapes off the skins
Feudi di San Gregorio (Italy): Responsible for increased appreciation of the ancient indigenous varietals of the region, including Fiano, Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico
Gaia (Greece): Pioneers of the modern Greek wine revolution showcasing to the world the huge potential of the indigenous Greek grape varieties
Gerard Bertrand (France): Helped put the Languedoc on the map as a quality, diverse, premium wine producing region. Also now the largest organic and biodynamic producer in the South of France
Hamilton Russell (South Africa): Tim Hamilton Russell fought hard with KWV to be able to plant new decent virus free clones in the new areas, and created the Hemel en Aarde Valley region
Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi (Italy): At the forefront of Tuscan vine growing. Introduced international varieties in the Tuscany region in 1855, leading the way for creation of Super- Tuscans
Saint Clair (New Zealand): Viticultural pioneers in Marlborough, first planting Sauvignon Blanc grapes in the region in 1978
Schloss Johannisberg (Germany): First Riesling estate, seen as creator of first spätlese (late harvest) and eisweins