Standing behind the diminutive tasting bar that is crammed into one corner of the cellars at Domaine Guiberteau, in the Saumur appellation, Brendan Stater-West looks every part the competent and accomplished vigneron. He knows intimately every vat and every barrel in these cellars as if they were old friends, and striding confidently from one to the next he pulls tasting samples from these vessels, releasing each wine in turn into my glass without spilling a drop, all done with the deft touch of someone who you might assume was born with a pipette in his hand.
Brendan’s story, however, is a little more convoluted than it might at first appear. Listen to his accent and you will quickly realise he is not from French stock, but American. He hails from Oregon, a long way from Saumur. He landed in France as a young man with no notable experience of wine, his only reason for making the trip being his wife; she is French, and when it came to choosing where to live Paris won over Portland. But it was what happened next that turned Brendan into one of the Saumur region’s newest, up-and-coming and most noteworthy vignerons.