Blending session at Pichon for the 2009

This is always an exciting time of the year. Although it is getting dark and cold, with winter drawing in, we have the fruits of the year’s sunshine with us in the form of the wines of the vintage. We start to taste the different lots at around this time, and will meet again several times before we decide on the final blend sometime in January or February. This morning we were tasting as usual all the different lots from the Pichon vineyard. 35 different lots of wine, all from distinct parcels of the vineyard with their individual personality. The challenge is to find the perfect blend for the Grand Vin of Pichon, at the same time ensuring that Les Tourelles will maintain its distinctive style.

Although our blending decisions are made on the basis of collective tasting, it is remarkable how each year certain parcels consistently make up the Grand Vin and certain others consistently are chosen for Les Tourelles.

Here is the Pichon tasting team: from left Alexandra Lebossé, Daniel LLose, Jean-René Matignon, Eric Boissenot, Jacques Boissenot, Christian Seely.

Blending session at Pichon for the 2009

As you can see we are feeling in a good mood about the 2009s, which are magnificent. At this early stage we can only make a first approach at the final blend, but the Pichon Grand Vin will undoubtedly be one of the great Pichons, showing already great purity and intensity of ripe fruit, and a lovely balance and freshness.

This is a more serious photograph showing Boissenot père et fils in action together with Daniel LLose.

Blending Session at Pichon for the 2009

2009 was great here in Bordeaux on both the left and right bank for the reds, but also in Sauternes. I will report in due course on early impressions at Petit-Village and at Suduiraut.

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China tour. A glass of Château Pichon-Longueville on the Great Wall

I am in China at the moment, both for the launch of our new distribution agreement with Cofco, and also accompanying Ch’ng Poh Tiong on the annual three city tour of China he organises each year, 128 years of Bordeaux. We had an unusually formal signing agreement with Cofco, who are taking on exclusive distribution of Les Tourelles de Longueville, Castelnau de Suduiraut and the wines of Mas Belles Eaux. Here we are at the signing ceremony in Beijing.

Signature of a new distribution agreement with Cofco

I have been coming to China for some time now, first visit having been in 1995. The transformation has been astounding, large parts of the cities literally unrecognisable after only a few years. From the wine point of view there have also been huge changes, with sophisticated wine shops and bars appearing on the scene, and wonderful restaurants, both Chinese and all varieties of international with remarkably extensive wine lists. A lot has happened in a very short time, but I am sure that in ten years time we will look back to today as having just been the beginning.

A year ago we recruited Stephanie Lim, a great wine professional, as our full time representative here, an indication of our belief in the future here. We had some time free on Saturday and so decided to take a bottle of Pichon to the great wall to drink to the future in Asia. We chose a very steep part of the wall to climb, so found ourselves alone at the top, having to take a picture of ourselves, so here is first a picture of me with a glass of Pichon on the Great Wall.

Christian Seely with a glass of Pichon on the Great Wall

And here is a picture of Stephanie, naturally more in harmony with her surroundings, and much easier on the eye.

Stéphanie Lim with a glass of Pichon on the Great Wall

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Why launch this blog?

Today we finally go live with this blog. Welcome and thank you for taking the time to visit.

As MD of AXA Millésimes I am responsible for a number of vineyards, in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, Hungary and Portugal. I spend a large part of my time visiting them all, and I hope that this blog format might be an interesting way of revealing to interested wine lovers something of what we do, and of the life of the vineyards and of the people who devote their time to looking after them.

I shall try to post something regularly, and I very much hope that these postings will stimulate some questions, to which I shall try give useful answers, the aim being to make it as interactive as possible so that you can have a real feeling of accompanying me to the vineyards and get some feeling of  what goes on, and what is involved in the elaboration of  a Grand Cru wine.

We are going live now following the 2009 harvest. It has been a great year in Bordeaux, for the reds, Right Bank and Left, and also in Sauternes.  It was also a great year in Burgundy, of which more later. I started writing up a couple of things when I was in Portugal during august, so I post them up now, below, backdated as it were. But as from now, postings will go up as and when they happen.

I hope you will enjoy the site, visit regularly, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Christian Seely

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New Douro Tasting

In London to present the 2007 red wines of Quinta do Noval at the New Douro tasting at the Tate Modern. I managed to escape from behind my table from time to time and so taste all the wines there: this sort of opportunity arises rarely in the region of production, so I try to make the most of it when I can. There were some very exciting wines on show: 2007 was a lovely year in the Douro, both for Vintage Ports and for the unfortified wines.

Paul Symington gave a presentation to the assembled visitors about the Douro region, the theme of which was that it is quite possible, though unusual, for a great vineyard region to be able to produce two different world class wines: Vintage Port and now unfortified Douro wines. To re-enforce the message, we showed the 07 Vintage Ports after the red and white wine tasting.

I find the emergence of the new Douro wines, both red and white, an immensely exciting phenomenon. I have now spent nearly sixteen years working in the Douro, at Quinta do Noval, and also more recently at Romaneira, and I lost my heart to the region a long time ago. To see red wines being produced that express the Douro terroir, as Vintage Port has done for a very long time, is a huge pleasure. More than anything, these new wines have given the Douro a new vitality and dynamism, as they make it possible for small winegrowers to establish themselves independently, something that is very difficult to do with Port wine.

The result has been the emergence of a new generation of Douro winemakers, establishing their reputations on the world stage with wines produced under their name or that of their quintas, and this can only be positive for the region, and of course for wine lovers everywhere. Although I cannot claim to be very small or very young, we would probably not have acquired Romaneira for example, had the project only been to produce Port wine: one of the principal attractions of the Romaneira vineyard is its potential for the production of Douro red and white wines. At Noval, we are certainly not giving up the day job, and the production of great port wines is and will remain our principal reason for existing, the red wines of Quinta do Noval, and the Cedro do Noval play an increasingly important role in the life of the Quinta. So in general: exciting times in the Douro Valley.

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Harvest at Pichon

Harvesters in front of Château Pichon-Longueville Baron

2009 harvest of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the plateau at the heart of the Pichon Baron vineyard

These pictures show the harvest of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the plateau at the heart of the Pichon Baron vineyard. Very old vines on deep beds of gravel give Cabernet of wonderful finesse and purity. With the very low yields that we practise here, and the precision of the work that takes places in the vineyard, beautiful wine is made from these vines every year, but some years are more special than others, and it looks as though 2009 will be one of those. Summer was hot and dry, and by the beginning of September we were beginning to be just a little worried: was there enough water in the soil for the vines to continue to do their all important work in the last few weeks to bring the Cabernets to full maturity? And then we had a weekend of rain, that put everything right. Slowly and steadily over the past few weeks the Cabernets have been ripening before our eyes. We knew that the Merlots were spectacular, but to make it a great vintage the Cabernets had to come round. And they did. You will see the results in the 2009 wines, which I think will be among the greatest of Pichons.

Grapes being harvested on the Cabernet plateau with the towers of Pichon in the background

 Grapes being harvested on the Cabernet plateau with the towers of Pichon in the background

Here you see the grapes being harvested on the Cabernet plateau with the towers of Pichon in the background. Watch this space: the 2009s will be something special.

2009 harvest at Pichon

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