Three bottles: Christian Seely

Another three bottles, and another gem.  Christian Seely is the MD of Axa Millesimes, owners of Domaine de l’Arlot, Quinta do Noval, Châteaux Suduiraut, Pibran and Petit-Village and, most importantly in my book, Château Pichon-Baron.  Closer to home, he is one half of Coates and Seely, producers of “Britagne”, which is to say a sparkling wine from Hampshire that has risen very quickly to the top of the tree in terms of English wine.  He is also, arguably, the best-dressed man in Bordeaux.

And – here’s the thing, the thing I love about these questions and what you can divine from the answers – he is clearly a man who knows exactly what it’s all about.

What was the first wine/bottle that got you into the whole wine thing?

In the early 1980s I spent several months in Bordeaux working with my father James Seely on his first book, Great Bordeaux Wines. It was actually this entire experience that got me into the whole wine thing, but if I have to pinpoint a bottle and a moment it would be the day that we visited Château Palmer for a tasting and they gave us a bottle of the 1961 Palmer, which we drank between us later that day. We were rather hard up, sharing a seedy room in a hotel in Lesparre and subsisting on an author’s advance. Somehow the preposterous contrast between our straitened circumstances and the magical generosity of this wonderful bottle of wine only intensified the pleasure of the moment. I remember, as we shared the bottle, musing profoundly on the infinite possibilities of life, and thinking that the people who had made that wine had done a wonderful thing.

What was the first wine/bottle that took you closer to your maker?

Again it was a bottle (there were quite a few) shared with my dad. This one though was the first great wine I consciously remember drinking. It was Boxing Day and we got up early for a day’s pheasant shooting. (This is not a politically correct story.) Christmas day had been a day of many bottles, so much so that no one had the energy to attack the bottle of Vintage Port, Dow 1955, that had been decanted for dinner. After our bacon sausage and eggs, my father suddenly said, ” That decanter of Dow is still in the dining room.” So we went outside in the snow and sat on the wall and drank it all before leaving. I was sixteen, and it was the first time that a bottle of wine had made that kind of impression on me. It transformed and enchanted the morning, which was one anyway of brilliant sunshine on a recent snowfall. The rest of the day went pretty well too. I still have a crystal clear memory of that moment and of that wine. It brought me closer to my dad at any rate, and still does.

What was the best wine/bottle you have had this year?

A bottle of Pichon-Baron 2005, drunk from a toothmug in the maternity ward in Bordeaux on the day of the birth of my son Charles in May this year. I would not normally recommend a toothmug, but in the circumstances it was just fine, and so was everything else. I love the Pichon 2005, which was the first great vintage I experienced at Pichon. For many years it was pretty reserved and closed, but now it is just beginning to open out and show its potential. For an idea of what I was feeling as I drank from my toothmug with Charles and his mother Anne-Victoire, I refer you to my note on the Palmer 61 above. Life: the infinite possibilities of.

Christian: thank you.