Nacional 2007 ?

“I did want to ask about 2007 nacional: what was the reason to do not bring it out as a nacional?’ asked me Albino Tuosto in response to the New Douro Tasting post. Herewith my answer :

We did not declare a Quinta do Noval Nacional 2007. This might seem strange as it was such a beautiful Vintage generally, but the Nacional is a strange phenomenon.

As you know, it is made from grapes grown on ungrafted vines in a small area at the heart of the Noval vineyard. This gives the wine a unique and distinctive personality: when it is great, as in years like 03, 00, 97, 96, 94, 63 it is quite extraordinary, one of the great wines of the world. But it is a wine that confirms something that is for me a deeply held belief, which is that a wine is great because of the quality of the grapes, the character of the year and because of the place they come from. These things are far more important than anything we may do either in the vineyard or in the winery.

We vinify the Nacional in the same way as the other grapes from the rest of the Quinta do Noval vineyard: foot treading in stone lagares, a simple if laborious procedure, and the result is always something very different for the Nacional wine compared with the wine from the rest of the Quinta. Nacional is what it is because of the grapes and where they come from, not because of anything clever that we do.

However, though it is always different, and with a distinctive personality, it does not necessarily follow the same rhythm as the rest of the vineyard. In 1996 for example, which was not a declared Vintage year for the rest of the Quinta do Noval vineyard, the Nacional was outstanding, and we decided to declare it. In 2007 on the other hand the Nacional just did not sing. It decided to be great in 1996; it decided not to be in 2007. It is just how it is. The decision not to declare the 07 Nacional was therefore a relatively easy one. I decided when I arrived at Noval in 1993 that we would never declare a Nacional that wasn’t great, something we have stuck to ever since. Of course, one can imagine the short term temptation to declare the Nacional 07 anyway – we would have been able to sell it! But we are custodians of the reputation of this magical wine, and long term that is what matters. So I am sorry, no Nacional 2007. But watch this space: every year is a new opportunity. We have had a good run of great Nacionals in recent years, and I am sure there will be more to come in the future.”

Bookmark and Share

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.

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share

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.

Bookmark and Share