Christian Seely - Managing Director AXA Millesimes

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Christian Seely: though a serious businessman, he is seldom far removed from a broad infectious grin...

 

As Managing Director of AXA Millésimes Christian Seely has one of the best jobs in the world of wine. Being an Englishman at the helm of a large French company, he clearly stands out. His evolution from researcher on James Seely's first wine book, to his current position as the man in charge at AXA, might well be described as distinctly ‘classified growth'.

 

This mighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of a man who exudes an air of quiet calm and whose appearance epitomises the classic English gentleman. Tall, with a youthful countenance and head of tight curly hair, his facial expression conveys the merest hint of a kindly smile. Sporting his trademark Charvet bowtie and bespoke Savile Row sobriety he is always impeccably presented. Though a serious businessman, his personality achieves a pleasing degree of equilibrium, never one to take himself too seriously he enjoys a dry wit and is seldom far removed from a broad infectious grin. Christian Seely manages to combine the astute financial acumen of J.K. Galbraith with the rather rakish and disarming naughtiness of a back-bench M.P. A man who enjoys good conversation and reasoned argument, while displaying that rare ability to really listen...an increasingly scarce commodity in our modern age, where wealth and power so often substitute for intelligence.

 

The Seely character is not easy to define containing large measures of pragmatism, juxtaposed (paradoxically, some would say), with a romantic vision, perhaps evoking the English poets he once read while at Trinity College, Cambridge. This man for all seasons, though passionate about fine wine and a true connoisseur, maintains a great ability to take tough long-term decisions and view the bigger picture. Running a very effective business with compassion for his workforce and those around him, while never losing his boyish enthusiasm for a subject with which he has been familiar since childhood. This life-long love affair with fine wine means Christian Seely is now living his own youthful dream and in becoming Managing Director of AXA Millésimes in the year 2000, achieved a long held ambition to make some of the greatest wines in the world. With properties in France, Portugal and Hungary he is now responsible for looking after almost 650 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards. These estates include many legendary names such as Chateaux Pichon Baron, Suduiraut, Petit Village and Quinta Do Noval in Portugal's Douro valley.

 

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..with the rare ability to really listen

 

Family Background
During the early 19th century the Seely family were farmers and had the very good fortune to discover coal beneath their Nottinghamshire estate, quite a useful resource at the height of the industrial revolution. Thus the family fortune was made and the means provided to acquire fine houses, fine furniture and fine wine. Though the Seely family were prosperous during the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, by the time Master Seely came along in 1960 no serious money remained. While inheriting little wealth, he did inherit a love of exquisite things which had taken several generations to acquire, though, as he says "I had no means whatsoever with which to enjoy them". Being surrounded by beautiful objects made a strong impression and conditioned him to seek out the best in life, not least wine.


Christian's father James Seely a much respected wine writer, bon vivant and Francophile made sure that his two sons experienced as much as possible, seldom missing an opportunity to share great vintage bottles. Christian has no single early memory of wine, simply because it was "so pervasive and an integral part of family life...there was no occasion I can remember when wine was not around". James Seely, a generous host and father, always shared treasured wines with his sons, bottles which other fathers might have jealously guarded for themselves. He ran various restaurants during the sixties and seventies, adored the gastronomic world and visited France whenever possible - a practice Seely senior continues to this day. The family home was constantly full of wonderful wines and good food, as a result the young Christian was somewhat spoiled for drinking any bad wines...as he says " I developed a taste for the good stuff very early on" this subsequently made University life difficult. At Trinity he regularly favoured beer if any cheap wine hove into view, finding anything defective "rather depressing", it would be true to say James Seely shaped his son's view of what constituted truly fine wine. As a young man he had a clear idea of what a great wine could be like and felt unable to accept faulty bottles, though he thoroughly appreciates basic country wines and regularly enjoys them.

 

 

Born in Nottingham, Christian Seely later spent most of his childhood growing up in Essex and Suffolk, indeed his first distinct recollection of a memorable wine dates back to this time. It was the Boxing Day shoot, snow covered the ground on a gloriously bright East Anglian morning. The Seely family had just finished a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, they had time to spare before setting out. At Christmas dinner the previous evening many interesting wines had been consumed and James Seely suddenly remembered a bottle which had been left untouched, "that Dow 55 is still in the dining room" he announced. Soon it was opened, and father and sons sat in the crisp morning air sharing this fine vintage port. Politically incorrect, as Christian Seely points out, he was sixteen years old and they were driving to the shoot, but a vivid memory and fondly recalled - an occasion which undoubtedly began the Seely love affair with great Port wine.

 

At this time he was still a pupil at Harrow but would soon be reading English Literature at Trinity College, Cambridge - here Christian found only the Dons had access to the wonderful cellars, "the myth about places like Trinity is that undergraduates sit by candlelight drinking priceless vintages", sadly it was the grain and not the grape which dominated any form of alcoholic intake during his Cambridge years, the undergraduates only had access to the poor wines from the buttery bar. Upon leaving university Christian was presented with a life changing opportunity, James was working on his first wine book, which would eventually become the large and impressive tome ‘Great Bordeaux Wines', needing a researcher he invited his son to go to Bordeaux and assist him. Christian thought, if nothing else it would be a good way to spend six months in France, drinking wine and having fun, so accepted the offer. It might be said the months which followed changed the 23 year old's life forever, setting him on the road to an eventual career in the world of fine wine, though it would be some time before any of the young man's ambitions were realized.

 

christian_web_3_740As a young man Seely had a clear idea of what a great wine could be like...


BORDEAUX
Christian Seely came first to Bordeaux in the early nineteen eighties, conducting research for his father he visited hundreds of chateaux and tasted more classic Bordeaux than most people experience in a lifetime. Like a wine crammer, his vinous education was compressed and concentrated into a period of several months. During his cook's tour of the vineyards he noted down and recorded everything, it was a joyful odyssey of legendary chateaux and great personalities. From tasting 30 year old white Malartic Lagraviere with the then elderly proprietor Jacques Marly, "who simply wished to share his wonderful wine with some young chaps" to a memorable lunch at Chateau Langoa with the late Ronald Barton... even encountering his future AXA boss, Jean-Michel Cazes at Ch. Lynch Bages in Pauillac, whom he delightfully recalls invited him and his photographer companion to enjoy their lunch by the swimming pool. Thus the two swam and then ate their sandwiches, only to observe Monsieur Cazes place a freshly opened bottle of his great fifth growth on the diving board and quietly withdraw into the chateau. A spontaneously generous gesture which left an indelible impression.

 

Christian Seely had been smitten by Bordeaux and it's wines, at the end of this amazingly rich and diverse journey through the greatest vineyards in the world he dreamt of being involved - to be part of a business which by now seemed familiar and populated by people full of passion and his own brand of special enthusiasm. Quite how this would happen was far from clear... it seemed an unlikely ambition.

 

He determined that he must go back to England, make a large fortune and return to buy a vineyard - "though I did very well in my subsequent career, I never did make enough to buy a chateau". In the meantime, the value of Bordeaux chateaux rose and Seely's earning capacity failed to match the stratospheric ascent of property prices - running or owning a chateau would remain just a dream. A love of the wine trade had been ignited and in true entrepreneurial spirit he decided to establish his own wine business "at the age of 23, having read poems for a few years at Cambridge no one was going to make me the boss of anything" - so he set up a Christmas hamper company, imaginatively named ‘Presents of Mind' - (thought of while tying his bowtie one morning). Providing high quality corporate food and wine gift packs for company clients and individual presents, the venture soon became a success, though only after a great deal of hard work. The fledgling business started life on the family's kitchen table, for the first year Seely packed his hampers through the night and delivered during the day, by the second year he employed several staff and by the third the business was a considerable success, making a healthy profit. Most of his wine was bought through Lay & Wheeler in Colchester - and as a result he became acquainted with Hugo Rose M.W., a firm friend to this day. During this time his mother Wendy became a partner and played an important role in the company's continued success, leading to it's eventual sale some years later. After four years of running ‘Presents of Mind' and building it into a thriving concern he became restless and sought new challenges. In order to move on he needed to lay a firm foundation.. as he says " I felt it might be useful to learn to add up". Enrolling at INSEAD business school in Fontainebleau was a shrewd move and provided the additional credentials necessary for a solid career in the business world. Taking an MBA would help Seely in running larger enterprises and provide a knowledge of accounting. He paid for himself and took an intensive one year course in order to return quickly to his own endeavours.


The move paid off and soon he was offered a position at L'Oreal in France and asked to spend two years as a trainee in Paris - an opportunity this Francophile could hardly resist, after the training an overseas posting would be secured. Within the first week at L'Oreal it was clear the world of shampoo and hair conditioners was not for him "I could not get enthusiastic about shampoo". He did however show great determination and stayed on in Paris for a full year to gain some of the most valuable experience imaginable.


Spending six months on the road while selling shampoo from a tiny car could not have been easy, however, he did meet all kinds of people while travelling across France. Though humbling, he discovered how rewarding selling could be "I now occasionally go out with our sales reps in the wine business and fully comprehend what they are up against" - this is what sets Christian Seely apart and demonstrates his solidarity and empathy with the current AXA Millesimes workforce.

Next came a troubleshooting position at Guinness Mahon Development Capital, a job entirely suited to the Seely personality. Having written a letter to most of the principle venture capital companies in London, bravely offering to take over the reins of failing businesses, four replies were forthcoming. One was from Guinness Mahon who clearly found the Seely approach impressive, so much so, a job was offered after a single 45 minute interview. He would now have ‘great fun' acting as M.D. of assorted businesses, all of which needed a substantial helping hand. They included a chain of 25 picture frame shops and a mirror factory in Birmingham, where Seely honed a perfect Black Country accent. It seemed a great opportunity and rather like being repeatedly appointed as Captain of the Titanic ! By managing people in difficult circumstances he learned a lot but "never felt passionately about the products"... however, this was about to change.

 

QUINTA DO NOVAL
While working for Guinness Mahon, Christian Seely heard through the ‘grapevine' that AXA, the giant French insurance group had purchased the famous Port wine estate of Quinta Do Noval in the Douro valley, a fine addition to their existing portfolio. He also learned they were looking for a Managing Director to take it over and resurrect it's failing fortunes... Noval had been in decline for some time. One can only imagine Seely's excitement, when as a life long wine aficionado, he realized there might be the opportunity of exchanging his grey midland monotony for the cobalt skies and verdant hues of the Douro valley, along with the possibility of resurrecting the fortunes of an ailing but legendary marque. The challenge of a lifetime, and one the Englishman would undoubtedly relish. He promptly wrote a letter to Jean-Michel Cazes in Bordeaux, the man in charge of AXA Millésimes at the time, a reply was soon forthcoming and after a series of extended interviews with J-M C. the position was finally offered to Christian Seely in 1993. His heart must have leapt as he realized he would at last be running a vineyard, not just any vineyard.. but one which had the potential to produce the finest Port wine in the world.

 

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Quinta do Noval - the challenge of a lifetime


His brief was to turn the business around and re-establish the property's reputation. When he began at Noval his grasp of winemaking was limited "when I started in wine, my knowledge was confined to having drunk quite a lot of it". By surrounding himself with a great team of professionals he set about halting Noval's decline. Motivating his workforce he explained " we are going to make the greatest Port wine in the world", thus inspiring them to great heights, winning their loyalty and support, while encouraging everyone at the Quinta to share this exciting yet ‘possible' dream. Seely says you must manage any business through the people you work with, he believes this is part of being a good manager. Offering autonomy though not independence and setting clear goals. Making an analysis of the estate and building a strategy, a ten year plan for Noval was placed before the AXA board - they approved and Christian Seely made sure it was implemented. The rest as they say is history, Quinta Do Noval is fully restored to its rightful place at the top of the port wine tree, regularly praised and rewarded for quality and true expression of it's own terroir - a revival for which Seely was wholly responsible. When asked if it was lonely running a port estate in the remote Douro valley, in a country whose language he did not comprehend... "yes it was lonely, but it was lonely running a mirror factory in Birmingham". In fact Seely learned Portuguese quickly and soon integrated within the community, he felt as if he had walked into the promised land and fell in love with Noval.

 

James Seely was clearly delighted his son had at last found a foothold within the world of fine wine and furthermore, had made a great success of the first opportunity to come along. When talking about Quinta Do Noval, Christian Seely becomes romantic "I am a custodian and servant of Noval, I believe my duty is to look after it, to make sure the wine produced is worthy of the place, it is not just a piece of ground...it is the result of hundreds of years of work, you have a responsibility to your predecessors". He is faithful to the spirit of those who went before and feels strongly about preserving the estate for future generations. This history and tradition, which mean so much to him, are protected and conserved by using the best modern vineyard practice. Believing that short termism in the vineyard is detrimental he adopts a longer view which is thoroughly endorsed by AXA. He believes in a constant programme of replanting and views each vineyard as a blue chip investment, continually seeking to increase the long term capital value of each property. By making less wine he sometimes improves the quality, even though consumers "occasionally do not notice", feeling that over time they will and by being strict with selection Seely and his team make the greatest wine possible. He adores great Port wine because it expresses the character of the place it comes from, the Douro valley is a savage and wild place, though the generous nature of Port is quite unlike the tough and harsh conditions in which the grapes are grown. As Seely says " I love Port because it is hedonistic, you don't need it, we can all live without Port... it is just pleasurable and sweet and alcoholic - a reaction against Puritanism, something of which I am not a fan. I associate Port with conviviality and good friends - I think that is what it's for "

 

LEAVING THE DOURO
After almost seven years in the Douro valley Christian Seely was summoned to Paris by AXA Millésimes' president Françoise Colloc'h, she offered him the post of Managing Director, a position then held by the soon to be retired Jean-Michel Cazes in Bordeaux. Seely took no time in accepting, this was an even greater opportunity to work in every area of wine production, from classified Bordeaux to the great Tokaj vineyards of Hungary, while still retaining a firm hand in the running of his beloved ‘Noval'. The portfolio was impressive, encompassing major estates in Pauillac, Pomerol, Sauternes and the Languedoc as well as a major negociant business - Company Medocaine.


Seely knew Cazes well, having worked closely with him for several years while at Noval. The transition would be smooth, he was a man for whom Seely had great respect and someone who had provided much valuable guidance. A steep learning curve would ensue in preparation for the eventual handover in January 2001. During 2000 he addressed the daunting task of getting to know the Bordeaux market, this necessitated familiarizing himself with hundreds of negociant, he must try to understand just how things worked and hit the ground running. Marketing and selling are a complex business though running the vineyards proved "more straightforward". Seely applied the same principle as at Noval, he assembled a first rate team - though excellent people were already in place including group technical director for AXA Millésimes Daniel Llose, a man on whom Seely would come to rely. Many in the workforce were already familiar to him, however , some new employees were needed after Cazes' departure. Following his retirement from AXA, Jean-Michel Cazes logically withdrew many of his own wines for which Company Medocaine had an exclusivity. The new M.D. was now running a negociant business with substantially less revenue, the problem was compounded by the loss of a number of key staff - recruitment became a factor. The situation suited Seely, he soon found a new Managing Director for Medocaine, a largely new commercial team was subsequently engaged and the business built back up. Lost wines were replaced with alternatives and the profit margins restored.

 

pichon_longueville_2_740The ultra stylish chais a Chateau Pichon Longueville

 

PICHON - THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN
Super Second growth, Chateau Pichon Baron is undoubtedly AXA Millésimes' ‘jewel in the crown'. The extensive and very impressive portfolio of individual vineyards add lustre to this fairy tale 19th century chateau adjacent to the main D2 running through the hamlet of St Lambert in Pauillac. The chateau was built by Baron Raoul in the mid 19th century, the now famous Egyptian style chais, set at right angles to the road in a symmetrical design, has won much praise since it's completion in 1992. The greatest acclaim is reserved for the wine itself, it cannot be denied that since the arrival of Christian Seely, this second growth has raised it's game even further. Truly meriting the title ‘Super Second', with the real prospect of yet more improvement. It should be acknowledged that after AXA purchased this run down property in 1987 it took many years of hard work, with a dedicated team of professionals to make improvements. The work in the vineyards has had a cumulative effect and under Seely's stewardship the chateau has now begun to fire on all cylinders. What is clear to many wine professionals and provides great fascination for all connoisseurs, is the current equality between the two Pichons of Pauillac. Though there is no element of a ‘showdown' between these two magnificent estates, Pichon Baron has certainly matched its elegant neighbour Pichon Lalande over more recent vintages. It always seemed that Baron failed to reach the dizzy heights of the great Lalande vintages of the 80's and 90's, perhaps now the balance is shifting. No longer will Pichon Baron be an ‘also ran' it will be spending more time in the winner's enclosure alongside the indomitable May-Eliane de Lencquesaing's own precious thorough-bread.


SUDUIRAUT AND SAUTERNES

Some great wines are almost entirely hand crafted, Chateau Suduiraut in Sauternes is such a wine. Though Christian Seely adores Port, he feels the same passion for Sauternes, "it is one of the very great wines of the world". His affection is hardly surprising as both wines have much in common. They each require total dedication to quality and fastidious attention to detail in the vineyard, carrying with them a great tradition and history, thus, an ardent band of loyal supporters... though because they are modest in number, the future for fine Sauternes is far from secure. It is an incredibly difficult wine to make and Seely says "it requires a ‘miracle' each and every year". That ‘miracle' is botrytis cinerea, or Noble Rot and when a vigneron finally makes a great vintage Sauternes he or she often has difficulty selling it. Seely wants to change this, he wants to make things better. Sauternes' production is limited, only 4 - 6 million bottles a year for the whole region - worldwide consumption falls short of this, Seely explains " a small change in fashion would make a huge difference, if the world demand is currently 5 million bottles and production 6 million, then the result is misery, should consumption rise to 7 million, with production at 6 million, the result would be happiness" He welcomes the arrival of LVMH at Chateau d'Yquem and feels they will do a great deal to raise the profile of Sauternes, suggesting there are many positive developments on the way and the market is healthy for Sauternes as a whole... though yet to be fully exploited. His view that Sauternes complements Asian and Japanese cuisine very well is one which surely offers grounds for optimism, campaigning vigorously within the Asian marketplace and attending events around the world based on the idea of marrying Sauternes with Asian food. The most recent vintages of Chateau Suduiraut have been stunning, the 2001 and 2003 stand out as wines which will give pleasure for many decades to come. Romance is never far from Seely's mind when talking of Port and Sauternes. "Though neither are daily necessities and are luxuries which exist purely for pleasure, when having savoured the most delicious meal you can concentrate on the pure pleasure of wine, a supremely enjoyable experience. Sauternes goes very well with an extremely beautiful person of whom you are very fond"


There is no doubt that evangelising on behalf of Chateau Suduiraut and the Sauternais growers is something an Englishman might do very well and though not launching a specific campaign, Seely does wish to spread the gospel of hand crafted Sauternes across the world and in so doing, elevate, not simply their status and the level of consumption, but the prices of some of the greatest wines. If the same level of success is achieved with Suduiraut, as Seely had with his resurrection of Noval, who knows what the future might hold. In a new departure for 2005 a dry white wine blended from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion has been launched under the label Suduiraut ‘S', production is miniscule but the wine is quite delicious with great potential for aging.

 

FALSE TEETH
Of the many elements which make up the Seely character, his love of life, humour and generous nature are the ones which contribute to making him a natural host. Whether entertaining professionally or at home with friends he seems completely at ease. Seely likes to ‘mix' people up and so it was during the annual pig roast at Quinta Do Noval some years ago. It is a tradition at Noval to invite a different Medoc butcher to the Douro valley each year, he prepares the pigs and
generally shares in the festivities, on this particular occasion a butcher from Pauillac was selected.

 

The butcher began well : executing his tasks during the morning and while doing so, managed to consume a whole bottle of vintage Port before 11am. At dinner the butcher was seated next to the Dutch ambassador - Christian Seely feeling that an ambassador is capable of dealing with any situation. After dinner they all repaired to the drawing room : moments later, the maid from Noval, crimson faced from laughing, knocked on the door, "Oh Mr Seely we have found something" she explained "you must come and see". Beneath the dining table lay a pair of pink gummed false dentures, quickly realizing that someone had removed them during dinner and accidentally dropped them onto the floor, Seely promptly returned to the drawing room and surreptitiously peered around the door to see just who had lost their teeth. Sure enough the butcher from Pauillac , still animatedly engaged in conversation with the Dutch ambassador, presumably asking just what it was like being an ambassador...or something similar, was clearly speaking thickly in the style of an intoxicated ventriloquist. Seely was now faced with a diplomatic dilemma: how do you restore a pair of false teeth to their rightful owner without causing grave embarrassment ? Cambridge and INSEAD had not prepared the M.D. for this type of dental crisis, undeterred he decided to say nothing. The butcher seemed not to be suffering any ill effects from his toothy shortfall and so the oral assets were taken up to his room and duly deposited in a glass of water beside his bed. The next morning all was well, nothing was said and the teeth were firmly back in place.

 

BORDEAUX CHANGES
Christian Seely is a traditionalist, he states the garagistes have had their day, especially in St Emilion and the 90's trend of making concentrated wines to please a ‘certain style' of consumer is waning. "There is a return to core values and producing great classic Bordeaux, wines which need a little time to age and express themselves - though this style of wine is not always pleasing at the March tastings, if you are prepared to wait they will be great - I welcome this change"
Embracing modern practises while maintaining a clear view of what constitutes ‘classic' Bordeaux is a continuing Seely theme and reminds one that here is a serious winemaker who will not be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Respect for many of the Bordeaux ‘old guard' as well as the new and upcoming generations means he stays current while retaining a sense of proportion and tradition. His admiration for older winemakers such as Charles Chevalier and Anthony Barton is considerable, this extends also to contemporaries Alexander van Beek at Giscours and du Tertre, Veronique Sanders at Haut Bailley, Clare Villars at Ferriere, Alexandre Thienpont at Vieux Chateau Certan and Gonzague Lurton, all of whose wines Seely regularly buys for his own cellar. "Bordeaux is the centre of the wine world and produces the greatest wines. England has had a long love affair with this place but one should be under no illusions, in order to feel one really belongs it helps to have been here for a hundred and fifty years"

 

A life of wine in Bordeaux is an extraordinary one and combines a nuanced esoteric existence with the harsh realities of a difficult and technologically advanced world market. Many of the top winemaking families live in the city centre and commute to their chateau offices every day. The modern vigneron no longer sits back and expects the world to come knocking at his or her door, they must seek out limited opportunities to secure valuable business within a saturated marketplace. Though tired on many fronts this worldwide market continues to expand exponentially, especially within Asia and the Far East. Life in Bordeaux as a vigneron can be paradoxical, living a 21st century life, while flying around the world promoting your wines, after which returning to a predominantly 18th century environment ... architecturally and critics might say, culturally.

 

Though some of the thinking in Bordeaux may still be pre-phylloxera, the grafting of Seely's ‘rootstock' in Pauillac, Pomerol and Sauternes has had it's effect and one can see this uninhibited incomer has won many friends with his well mannered and commonsense approach to marketing a business which he dearly loves. Over many years the promotion of the classified growths has been a tremendous commercial success but Christian Seely concurs that due to a fragmented situation, generic global brands have never succeeded in Bordeaux. Many negociants have their own generic labels but they are small and could hardly be considered ‘worldwide'. This is a problem which is unlikely to trouble Seely, his heart is firmly bonded to ‘handmade' cru classé - a world with which he is now at one and a world for which he seemed destined from an early age. Keeping an open mind is something he is good at, appreciating that most bordelais genuinely love wine and certainly enjoy drinking the wines of their rivals... though some critical observers might add, it would help if they tasted the offerings of their overseas competitors a little more. Ostrich like behaviour is certainly not a trait of AXA's man at the top and the Seely cellar contains an eclectic mixture of fine bottles from around the world.


Christian Seely lives in the centre of Bordeaux with his delightful French wife Corinne, a trained Oenologist. Their sons Theodore and Alexander and stepson Antoine, occupy any spare time along with the Seely passion for reading and fly fishing. Inevitably, dinnertime conversation revolves around wine and food. Both husband and wife are fine cooks and family life in this household reverberates to the sound of Champagne corks and the chink of crystal decanters.

 

THE FUTURE
AXA Millésimes is in very safe hands and their future in Bordeaux appears positively luminous : In Pauillac , Super Second Pichon Baron is at the height of it's powers and the cru bourgeois estate of Ch. Pibran has had a run of excellent vintages and seldom disappoints. Suduiraut is performing supremely well alongside it's noble Sauternes neighbours. Petit Village in Pomerol promises to get better and better and the fortunes of Cantenac Brown in Margaux are improving yearly, with an exceptional vintage in 2004. All of this before one considers the AXA domains in Burgundy, the Languedoc and of course the supreme duo of Quinta Do Noval in Portugal and Disznokö in Hungary. Christian Seely is set to remain a resident of Bordeaux 33000 for quite some time, yet there is no doubt Seely's ambition to possess a vineyard of his own remains. "it is inevitable that if you spend your life looking after vineyards you will think about the idea of owning one yourself, it is not something I am thinking of right now as I have much to be getting on with ... perhaps in five or six years time"


His track record during the first twelve years with AXA has been entirely solid and reliable. Claiming the success of Quinta Do Noval as his proudest wine achievement thus far, it would be foolish to bet against this same magic touch if applied to Chateau Suduiraut, a spectacularly good wine with a fine pedigree. His desire for success in all things is seemingly insatiable and his arguments charmingly persuasive. Making an impact on the world market for Sauternes will not be easy, indeed, impossible for one estate alone. If a spirit of co-operation prevails within this most beautiful of Bordeaux appellations and a united front presented, such a daunting challenge might well be overcome. Should an eloquent international ambassador be sought, here is an Englishman whose clubbable personality and ability to communicate clearly while conveying a romantic vision must surely mean it is an honorary post for which Christian Seely, Managing Director of AXA Millésimes is simply made to measure.

 

web_sphinx_tiny copyright The World of Fine Wine 2005 - volume 9

 

 

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