After starting his winemaker career in Australia, Clarke worked for Montana Wines in New Zealand for 17 years.
According to Ara, Clarke had a “significant” role in the development of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wine style and “helped drive” the progress of New Zealand Pinot Noir, Sparkling, and Pinot Gris.
In his new role Clarke will “use his extensive experience” to build Ara’s premium wine brands.
The winery hope that Clarke will be able to “bring the best out of” its “unique” Southern Valleys terroir.
Christine Pears, chief executive of Ara said: “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.”
Clarke’s appointment coincides with the departure of Damian Martin, who established the vineyard and oversaw winemaking operations.
Pears added: “Damian has made a considerable contribution to the establishment of Ara and we wish him all the best for the future.”
Gus Struthers, who joined in 2010 from Constellation Brands to lead Ara’s vineyard operations, will now assume responsibility for the viticultural management of the vineyard.