Christian Seely has had marketing and management roles with L’Oréal and Guinness Mahon, but is no stranger to the wine business. He has 20 years experience at the wine division of Axa Millésimes, during which time he managed their wine property portfolio including Châteaux Pichon-Longueville, Suduiraut and Quinta de Noval. In 1986 he enrolled on the MBA course at Insead where he met fellow wine lover Nicholas Coates. When Coates retired from banking in 2007, the two put into action their plan of creating their own high quality English sparkling wine.
Not far from Coates' Hampshire home lies the Wooldings Vineyard that was established in the late 1980s by Charles Cunningham. Somewhat unusually this included plantings of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir along with other varietals. Wooldings' wines were highly regarded and received a number of awards, but Cunningham was tragically murdered in Indonesia in 2002. His mother, Daphne, has joined forces with Coates & Seely and the Wooldings Vineyard now supplies some of the estate's fruit and houses the winery. The original 5 ha vineyard has been converted completely to Champagne varietals and also extended to cover 12 ha. Additional fruit comes from a larger vineyard at Exton Park in the Meon Valley, which lies 25 miles south of Wooldings. Coates & Seely have entered into an agreement with this vineyard owner to manage the vineyard and to purchase the crop.
The original winery at Wooldings has been extensively refurbished and filled with new equipment. This includes a Burgundy press, stainless steel tanks, oak barrels, and gyropalettes. The first harvest was in 2009 and the first wines were released in 2011. One quirk of Coates and Seely is that they refer to the winemaking process as Méthode Britannique and each bottle is labelled as Britagne, which is meant to be pronounced Britannia.
Critical reception for the wines has been very positive and they quickly sell their current production, mainly in the UK but with some sales in France. Future plans should see production reach ca. 100,000 bottles per annum.
(images © Coates & Selly)
Coates & Seely Brut Reserve, NV
Pale Gold; moderately aromatic, floral, apples; smooth mousse, dry, fresh acidity, creamy apples and lemons palate; med+ sharp clean finish. (7 May 2014) Outstanding, 91/100
Coates & Seely Rosé, NV
Pale Salmon colour; med aromatic, red fruits; dry, crisp acidity, lovely concentrated fresh. apples, strawberries, raspberries, light; med+ finish. (7 May 2014) Outstanding, 93/100