It’s always a pleasure to meet wine producers and listen to them as they tell their story to consumers. Last week I was fortunate enough to co-host a winemaker’s dinner with Steve Pellet, of Marlborough’s Stanley Estates, at Fat Olives restaurant, in Emsworth.
Founded by Steve and his partner Bridget Ennals in 2003, Stanley Estates is now recognised as one of Marlborough’s premier wine producers.
Steve and Bridget met while at the University of Bath while studying horticulture.
Having completed their degrees they set off on an epic journey through Africa, and ended up in 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 world as fruit technologists, they found some land in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley and bought 11 hectares which they began to plant with vines and the name Stanley seemed to fit very well for their new venture.
The first wines were launched with the 2009 vintage and with their 2010 sauvignon blanc they started to land all sorts of awards, including the Best International Sauvignon Blanc Trophy at the International Wine Challenge competition.
The current Stanley Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough (Hennings Wine £16.50, frontierwines.co.uk £14.60, Hermitage Cellars £13.25) is for me still a benchmark Marlborough sauvignon at a time when many examples now found on the supermarket shelves seem to have become a little too formulaic.
Lovely aromatics of lime, passion fruit, tomato stalk and hints of cut 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 unusual varieties for Marlborough and both albariño and Italy’s lagrein are now planted.
Stanley Estates Albariño 2016 (waitrosecellar.com £14.99, frontierwines.co.uk £15.95, Hermitage Cellars £14.25) is a lovely take on this very fashionable Spanish variety.
There is some classic peach and blossom along with a little grapefruit on the nose, the palate is nicely concentrated with stone fruits and some nicely bracing acidity and a really well-balanced finish.
Outside of Galicia this is as good an example of albariño as I’ve tasted and would be perfect matched with some really fresh seafood.
The surprise for me was how well Stanley Estates Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (frontierwines.co.uk £17.99, Hermitage Cellars £16.10) went down with the guests. Proof that this often now sadly overlooked variety can produce great wine in New Zealand.
There is not much of this to go around but it is an absolutely beautifully put together chardonnay with perfectly judged oak in the background. The nose shows citrus, stone fruit, honey, a little spice and a hint of what I can only describe as digestive biscuit. The palate has great weight with some minerality and a nice creamy finish.
It was sensational with a smoked fish terrine, one of the best food and wine pairings I’ve had the good fortune to taste this year.
Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail