ALISTAIR GIBSON: Remember to drink in the stories of the winemakersÂ
It's always a pleasure to meet wine producers and listen to them as they tell their story to consumers. Last weekÂ I was fortunate enough to co-host a winemaker'sÂ dinner with Steve Pellet, of Marlborough's Stanley Estates, at Fat Olives restaurant,Â in Emsworth.Â
Founded by Steve and his partner Bridget Ennals in 2003, StanleyÂ Estates is now recognised as one of Marlborough's premier wine producers.Â
SteveÂ and Bridget met while at the University of BathÂ while studying horticulture.
HavingÂ completed their degrees they set off on an epic journey through Africa, and endedÂ up inÂ Cape Town, in a second-hand Land Rover they named Stanley '“ after Sir
Henry Stanley of Dr Livingstone fame.
Some years later, having travelled the worldÂ as fruit technologists, they found some land in Marlborough's Awatere Valley andÂ bought 11 hectares which they began to plant with vines and the name StanleyÂ seemed to fit very well for their new venture.
The first wines were launched withÂ the 2009 vintage and with their 2010 sauvignon blanc they started to land all sortsÂ of awards, including the Best International Sauvignon Blanc Trophy at theÂ International Wine Challenge competition.
The current Stanley Estates SauvignonÂ Blanc 2017, MarlboroughÂ (Hennings Wine Â£16.50, frontierwines.co.uk Â£14.60, Hermitage CellarsÂ Â£13.25) is for me still a benchmark Marlborough sauvignon at a time when manyÂ examples now found on the supermarket shelves seem to have become a little tooÂ formulaic.
Lovely aromatics of lime, passion fruit, tomato stalk and hints of cutÂ grass fill the glass, followed by some minerality and tropical flavours all really well-balanced by zesty acidity.
It went beautifully with a dish of cured local chalk stream trout.
Steve and Bridget have been keen to plant some more unusualÂ varieties for Marlborough and both albariÃ±o and Italy's lagrein are now planted.
Stanley Estates AlbariÃ±o 2016 (waitrosecellar.com Â£14.99, frontierwines.co.uk Â£15.95, Hermitage Cellars Â£14.25) is a lovely take on thisÂ very fashionable Spanish variety.
There is some classic peach and blossom alongÂ with a little grapefruit on the nose, the palate is nicely concentrated with stoneÂ fruits and some nicely bracing acidity and a really well-balanced finish.
Outside ofÂ Galicia this is as good an example of albariÃ±o as I've tasted and would be perfectÂ matched with some really fresh seafood.
The surprise for me Â was how well Stanley Estates Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (frontierwines.co.uk Â£17.99, Hermitage Cellars Â£16.10) went down with theÂ guests. Proof that this often now sadly overlooked varietyÂ can produce great wine in New Zealand.
There is not much of this to go aroundÂ but it is an absolutely beautifully put togetherÂ chardonnay with perfectly judgedÂ oak in the background. The nose shows citrus, stone fruit, honey, a little spice andÂ a hint of what I can only describe as digestive biscuit. The palate has great weightÂ with some minerality and a nice creamy finish.
It was sensational with a smokedÂ fish terrine, one of the best food and wine pairings I've had the good fortune toÂ taste this year.
Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail