Pierre Seillan is the winemaker in three estates in California, Tuscany and Bordeaux. The Vérité wines he makes for Jackson Family Wines in Sonoma County have hit Parker’s 100-point score on seven occasions.
It’s not every day that you meet a ‘perfect’ winemaker but, if you believe one critic in particular, that’s what Pierre Seillan is. The wines Pierre makes in Sonoma County, St-Emilion and Tuscany might not be to everyone’s taste but to the palate of Robert Parker, the Californian Vérité wines are perfect and have been honoured as such with 100 Parker points – a score that’s as elusive as a perfect 10 used to be in gymnastics until Nadia Comaneci hit the bars, the non-drinking ones you understand.
Parker has awarded Vérité wines 100 point scores on no less than seven occasions. To give that some context Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, which has been making wine since the 18th Century has only scored 100 points three times.
A big, jovial ex-rugby player, Pierre is a quintessentially French vigneron who lives and breathes winemaking as a passion. He is fully committed to the concept of terroir “my role is to translate the message of the soil” and has a micro cru philosophy whereby he divides each vineyard into small areas defined by specific qualities of the grapes. This he then uses to make blends according to many, many different possibilities “like the conductor of an orchestra” he smiles.
Pierre left Bordeaux to join Jackson Family Wines in California 20 years ago a move influenced by his desire to break free from what he sees as the stifling restrictions of the French appellation system, a move that clearly has borne fruit in more ways than one. He is such a perfectionist that he even owns his own stave mill, so that he can get the pick of the oak from seven different forests.
Three of the best from Pierre Seillan
Muse is one of three Vérité wines (all blends with either Merlot, Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon turned up in the mix) and in 2007 all three were awarded 100 points, an unprecedented achievement. La Muse is Merlot-dominated and in line with the micro cru philosophy, the grapes have come from four different parcels and been blended superbly. Given Merlot is to the fore this wine is totally approachable now but will age for at least another 30 years. Parker called this “A perfect wine, thrilling to smell, taste and drink.” That’s just as well then, particularly when you consider this costs over £300 a bottle. La Joie and Le Désir are the other two blends.
Pierre loves his Cabernet Franc that makes up a third of this Merlot Right Bank blend. It therefore tastes green and young, although by picking late (unlike most) in what was a tricky harvest, he managed to get lucky and get plenty of ripeness into the grapes. Given that Pierre moved to California to escape what he sees as the confines of the French vinification regulations this is a surprisingly ‘by-the-book’ St-Emilion that has black fruits, coffee and firm but fresh tannins holding it all together. This is delicious now but is best decanted for an hour or so and served with food. Personally I would cellar it for two more years at least.
Not only has Pierre attained perfection seven times but he oversees winemaking in three international locations, an amazing achievement in itself. Deep in the heart of Chianti Classico country, Tenuta di Arceno produces five Super Tuscan style wines with Pierre having overseen the planting of 2,500 acres into 57 different blocks of grapes. The 2007 I tasted was a humdinger of cherries, black fruit and spicy tobacco. Food was essential, as I find with most Italian reds, and decanting for two hours is strongly recommended.