October 22, 2010 Château du Seuil
Château du Seuil Cérons
Here’s a dessert wine I picked up at the local WineFest. Not only did I think it great value, but it is from a small family-run domaine in a little known appellation. Just my kind of wine.
Château du Seuil makes dry reds and whites, but this is their dessert wine. Cousin to the pricey Bordeaux sauternes produced close by, the late harvest wines of Cérons rival them for taste at a fraction of the price. Some think of it as the best kept secret among fine French dessert wines. Well, let me shout it out…
Château du Seuil Cérons 2007
...this wine is treasure in a bottle!
I have a fondness for sweet wines, but in small measure. In this case there is not a stain left in the bottom of the glass, on the first round or the second. It is but moderately sweet, with light and lingering notes of apricot and citrus, the acidity a distinct pleasure. Restrained, clear and fresh, yet with a stone-fruit creaminess that is rich encouragement to renew the experience. And through it all, the bright swirl of amber gold. $
Château du Seuil is in the very capable hands of Nicola and Sean Allison. The previous owners, Nicola’s parents, had arrived from Wales in 1988, purchasing the estate and revitalizing it to its former award-winning ways, dating back to the 1930s.
Since 2001, Nicola, a medical doctor turned vigneronne, and her New Zealand husband Sean, whose focus shifted from investment banking to viticulture, have continued to raise the profile of the estate. A recent Trophée des Crus de Graves (for its 2007 Graves blanc) is clear evidence of their commitment to winemaking.
It is a long way from Auckland to the village of Cérons, but the couple has been something of a breath of fresh air in traditionalist Bordeaux. Their 25 hectares are spread over the Graves and the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux appellations. Cérons (an enclave within Graves) is the smallest AOC in Bordeaux, with only 19 producers and just 40 hectares of vines.
It is here, near the banks of the river Garonne, that the autumn mists encourage botrytis, the famed ‘noble rot.’ Late harvest wines have been fashioned on this property for 150 years.
The grapes are hand-picked, with workers passing through the vineyards several different times and choosing only the best of what’s on the vines. Pneumatic pressing follows, and deep chilling, prior to fermentation in barrel. The wine is matured for 18 months in new or one-year-old French oak. 2007 has proven to be a particularly fine year for this wine, as it has been for sweet wines throughout Bordeaux.
By choice and necessity these vineyards have long been organic, well prior to the estate beginning its conversion to full organic certification in 2009. Sean Allison tells me that the use of pesticides in viticulture only became widespread at the end of WWII, with ‘the chemical industry looking for ways to get rid of its surplus capacity.’ The oldest residents of Cérons remember a time when vegetables would be grown in the rows between the vines. Including peas, from which arose the village’s long-standing annual Fête des Petit Pois. As Sean sees it, ‘the love affair with chemicals is dying as fast as it started.’ If so, then perhaps one day the petit pois will again find a place between the vines of Cérons.