Christian Seely at the Zetter Townhouse: Great wines & great company

Fine Wine Tasting, Lay & Wheeler, Christian Seely
Success in turning around the fate of Quinta do Noval during his stint as Managing Director there meant that Christian Seely was offered the driving seat for the whole AXA Millèsimes company when Jean-Michel Cazes moved on to pastures new.

Since 2000, Christian has managed the portfolio with great success and we were thrilled to welcome him to host a dinner for our clients last night at the Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell. After an absolutely delightful glass (or three) of Christian’s Hampshire sparkling wine, Coates & Seely Blanc de Blancs NV (a beautifully mineral sparkling showing once more that the best vineyard sites in the UK have a lot in common with Champagne vineyards), it was time to sit down and start enjoying Christian’s wit and charm, and of course see how his wines fared with the excellent food.

The first comparison was a pair of 2007s from both sides of the river, namely 2007 Petit-Village from Pomerol and 2007 Pichon-Baron. Beyond the difference in taste between Merlot-dominated right bank and Cabernet-dominated left bank, this comparison also showed just how approachable the 2007s are. These two wines may well have been on the young side, but it would be difficult to argue that they did not drink beautifully, and both complemented the snails starter fantastically. The Pichon-Baron probably had the edge in terms of intrinsic quality, however the Pomerol may well have been a better match for the food.

The next comparison pitted Pichon-Baron 2003 and 2004 against each other. Christian’s opinion that the terroir shines through in these wines and dominates the vintage characteristic is hard to argue with – the surprising freshness on the finish of the otherwise typically rich, round and seductive 2003 was mirrored by a lovely richness of fruit to the more elegantly-styled 2004. It is difficult to really explain how wines can have a family resemblance year in, year out and yet also have a really different personality every vintage. Pichon-Baron, however, is an excellent example of this and showcases Christian’s ability to make the right decisions and get the right people in each of the estates he manages. As AXA’s portfolio includes incredibly different properties such as Pichon-Baron in Pauillac, Domaine de l’Arlot in Nuits –St-Georges, Suduiraut in Sauternes, Petit-Village in Pomerol, Diznoko in Tokaji and Quinta do Noval in the Douro, this is crucial.

The next wine was arguably “The Treat” of the evening – 1996 Pichon-Baron – and was everything one could hope for in mature claret. The tell-tale powerful style, dense fruit and perfect poise were taken to another level by the development of more complexity, especially a hint of savoury leather, spice and that should develop further over the next decade. This was a very special bottle indeed. 2001 Suduiraut with pudding was absolutely stunning, hitting the perfect balance between rich butterscotch and wild honey and the dried fruit and spice that come with age. The length was outstanding – let’s hope that Sauternes producers continue to ignore the economic truth about making this style of wine (in short, it makes almost no financial sense) so we can enjoy wines of this calibre in many years to come!

Finally, the cheese course brought a particularly interesting wine for us geeks – a 1997 Quinta do Noval Colheita, a style seldom seen on these shores, and essentially a vintage port that has been aged in oak cask in the same way as old Tawnies. This means it had shed its tannins and developed perfect balance, harmony and a wonderful complexity. Some say that all wine would be port if it could. It is my humble opinion that in all ports should aim to be as good as this!

All in all, a brilliant evening with fabulous wines and a charismatic and entertaining speaker – a great time was had by all and much gratitude is owed to Christian for his time!

Ludovic Surina

One Comment

  1. Stephen Pollock-Hill
    Posted Monday 15 October 2012 at 13:54 | Permalink | Reply

    A very good summary of an excellent evening. Christian’s remarks about close neighbours, being “not bad” (ie Latour & Lynch Bages) brought some laughs and he combined humour with great knowledge and expertise.

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