Bordeaux Day 2021 has been organised by Vins de Bordeaux to give UK buyers as big a chance as possible to taste the modern styles of wine now being made in the region with two standalone tastings taking place next week – in London on September 8 and Manchester on September 9. Here we turn the spotlight on one of the producers – Chateau du Seuil – whose wines will be available to taste as Nicola Allison explains why she gave up a career as a doctor to take over the family’s property in Graves with her husband Sean to make modern-style organic Bordeaux wines.
The Bordeaux Day events are taking place with two tastings per day between 11am-2pm and 3pm-6pm. They include
Bordeaux Day London September 8: Camden House, Camden Lock Place, London, NW1 8AB. Register here.
Bordeaux Day Manchester September 9: Oglesby Atrium, Stoller Hall, Hunts Bank, Manchester, M3 1DA. Register here.
The Bordeaux Day tastings will give specialist wine buyers the chance to: go through Bordeaux’s Hot 50 2021 Selection of wines chosen by an expert panel of judges; meet and talk to UK importers and taste their selected ranges of Bordeaux wines; look at what Bordeaux is doing to promote sustainability and taste a selection of organic, biodynamic and vegan wines; seek out wineries that are looking for UK representation with wines priced between £6 and £25.
Here Bordeaux producer Nicola Allison explains why she and Chateau du Seuil are taking part.
Can you tell us about Bordeaux Day and why you’re excited to present your wines at these events?
Chateau du Seuil will be represented under the Green Bar. We have been organic since 2009 and are thrilled to be able to showcase our wines both as our brand but also to show the quality of organic wines now coming out of Bordeaux.
Which of your wines will be presented at Bordeaux Day?
The Chateau du Seuil Graves red wine.
Can you tell us about your background and how you became a winemaker?
It’s a rather an unusual journey that involves changing profession (I was a doctor), changing countries (a Welsh girl living in New Zealand, then moving to France) and taking over our family property Chateau du Seuil in 2001.
Can you tell us about Château de Seuil and what you see as being its main point of difference in your appellation in Bordeaux?
Unfortunately we are still a small minority being certified organic in both the Graves appellation and Bordeaux in general, but fortunately the numbers are growing. We are also an international family, with three nationalities living under the same roof – French, Kiwi and British. Our target market is over 80% direct export.
What sort of wines are you making and why?
Our whites are fresh and fruity, our reds also fruit driven with soft supple tannins. This is our preference, but also, more importantly, what our clients like.
Have you changed the way you have been making those wines to make them more appealing and market focused? If so, what are those changes and why did you make them?
We have been making this style of wine for about 10 years now due to market demands and the fact that once a bottle of our wine is bought it is drunk almost immediately so it needs to be able to approachable but also with the ability to age. We do make a special cuvée – our Heritage wine – that is designed to be drunk after five years.
What are the hardest things to get right when looking to make more modern styles of fruit forward wines?
In Bordeaux it is always a balance to get ripe fruit before the autumn weather creeps in, the whites now are picked much earlier than they used to be in order to keep the acidity and the thiols fruit profile.
Why did you switch to organic grape growing?
I think it is better for the wines, the vineyard, and the consumer and the people who live and work in the vines. Our home is surrounded by our vineyards, and having three children growing up here, going organic was a very easy decision to make.
What benefits do you think it makes to how the wine tastes and performs?
I think that one of the most important requirements in making good organic wine is the care applied to the vineyard. It is like gardening, a well tendered garden produces beautiful flowers. We have found that our vines have developed a natural resistance to disease, our yields are lower and our wines more expressive.
What are the biggest challenges to organic winemaking?
The weather, weather and weather. This is a challenge to all vignerons, but as we do not use systemic products we have no protection after a rainfall of more than 20 mm.
How do you see Bordeaux overall and the big changes taking place in how wines are being made?
The wines made for drinking every day are now more fruit driven.
What else do you think Bordeaux as a whole could do better to improve the style of wines it makes?
More labels that explain to the consumer what they are drinking. A wider selection of red and white approachable wines, with an emphasis on freshness and fruit…and more organic production.
Do you think Bordeaux has a perception issue in terms of the wines you are making and what the trade and consumer understand what is available?
Yes. When I meet the end consumer in the UK, I often hear the comments: “I cannot afford Bordeaux” or “Bordeaux wines are too heavy” and “Bordeaux is what my father drinks”. Bordeaux still needs to service its traditional clientele, but also capture more of the the younger market as well.
You have moved over from a medical career – why did you want to work in wine and make that move?
My parents moved to France in 1988 to renovate and start making wine at Chateau du Seuil, a property that had been making wine for over 150 years. When they reached 60, they wanted to sell unless we (my husband Sean and myself ) were interested in taking it over…so we did in 2001.
How difficult did you find the switch in career?
The biggest challenge was working side by side with Sean 24 hours a day as we both had very different careers before. I am glad to say we managed to work it out and are still working together and happily married 20 years later.
What do you now enjoy about being a winemaker compared to your previous career?
There are some similarities, the relationship with people is very important whether they are colleagues, employees or clients. Generally when people come to you as a winemaker they are keen to discover what you have and are in a happy place.
Making wine is a creative process, and we live by the seasons, which I like. It is also very varied as a profession, the day can involve meeting people, wine tastings, trying to get a tractor fixed, planning travel (pre covid ), to meeting importers and deciding what to do in the vineyard.
What have been your greatest achievements so far?
Juggling working full time with having three children, and being happily married. Plus also fitting in some me time, which for me is yoga.
What are you outstanding challenges and targets you have personally and for the winery?
To continue to make good wine that pleases our customers, and achieve the a good life and work balance.
To find out more about Chateau du Seuil contact Nicola Allison on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Their wines are available through Fine Wines Direct.
You can find our more about Bordeaux Day London on September 8 at Camden House, Camden Lock Place, London, NW1 8AB by clicking here.
You can find our more about Bordeaux Day Manchester on September 9 a Oglesby Atrium, Stoller Hall, Hunts Bank, Manchester, M3 1DA by clicking here.