A Vineyard Diary December 2022

Michael Portillo Visits Coates & Seely for his Sunday Show and the end of the 2022 grape harvest which promises outstanding quality wine.

Michael Portillo Visits Coates & Seely for his Sunday Show

Best known as a former cabinet minister and a potential heir to Mrs Thatcher, and more recently as the host of the BBC series ‘Great Continental Railway Journeys’, we were delighted to greet Michael Portillo off the 8.50am Waterloo to Overton train earlier in the month and to give him a tour of Coates & Seely.

Michael was preparing a short film for his ‘Sunday with Portillo’ television show, focusing on the Best of British food and drink. This is what he had to say.

Michael’s visit took place soon after this year’s harvest, which was arguably the finest we have yet experienced. A frostless spring, followed by a blazing summer, interspersed with bouts of rain in August and September that helped fatten the berries, produced fruit of outstanding quality and quantity. We are confident that the 2022 harvest will result in the finest wines we have yet produced, although we shall have to wait until 2026 – 2030 to taste them !

Coates & Seely grape harvest

On the sales front we continued to acquire new by-the-glass listings at such wonderful restaurants as Wild By Tart and Clos Maggiore, and were honoured to be chosen by the Political Office to supply 10 Downing Street and Chequers, as well as by Government Hospitality who supply wines into state functions at Lancaster House and Buckingham Palace. 

Perhaps the most glamorous of the new listings was Scotts, Richmond, the new sister restaurant to Scotts, Mayfair, each of which now serve Coates & Seely by the glass. The new Scotts is somewhere everyone should visit at least once in their lives: a triumph of beauty, sophistication and deep comfort, with timeless views down the Thames across Georgian Richmond, and service that is quite faultless.

To round off the sales news, we have at last entered the US market, having appointed Touton Wines to distribute Coates & Seely down the East coast from Boston, to New York, to Florida. The sales focus will be to high-end hotels and restaurants. Touton are on-trade specialists and have an unrivalled salesforce dedicated to the best restaurants across the Eastern Seabord. We are very excited to have found such a perfect US partner.

Finally, we would remind you that the current Coates & Seely Brut Reserve NV won the Best in Show Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards with a score of 97 points. This is remarkable for a non-vintage wine and, with 2023 price rises looming, now is a great time to purchase this outstanding wine at current 2022 prices). The Rose NV is no laggard either, so for those looking to stock up for the Christmas season, these wines are not only delicious but represent terrific value!

Coates & Seely’s Brut Reserve scores 97 points and Best in Show at Decanter World Wine Awards

We wish you and your families  a Very Happy Christmas.

Michael Portillo visits Coates & Seely

Michael Portillo visits Coates & Seely to meet the team and discuss the similarity of wine production in the North Hampshire Downs to the Champagne region.

Sunday with Michael Portillo

Taste of Britain: Coates & Seely a very sparkling success

Michael Portillo visits Coates & Seely to meet the team and discuss the similarity of wine production in the North Hampshire Downs to the Champagne region. 

Mr Portillo asked co-founder Nicholas Coates how it is possible to grow great wines in Southern England.  Nicholas explained that it was largely to do with the similarity of the chalk downlands of England to the Champagne region. The soil type and the cool climate go together to make great Champagne and sparkling wines, such as Coates & Seely. 

Even twenty years ago Coates & Seely’s success would have been difficult to achieve but the relative warming over the last couple of decades has nudged the climate to the ideal for sparkling wine grape growth.

Michael Portillo Coates & Seely a very sparkling success

Nicholas went on to explain that the gentle slope and orientation of the Coates & Seely vineyards are key to the perfect ripening of the grapes towards the end of the season in September, with the lower sun levels reaching and ripening all the grapes. 

Nicholas introduced Michael to the Coates & Seely winemaker Andras Lorincz at the winery, set in the heart of the Hampshire vineyards.

2022 – A very promising harvest

As Nicholas explained, the key thing with the recently pressed juices is that the sugars and acidity are in perfect balance.  This year, a very hot, sweet year, brings an exciting complexity as well as harmony to the flavour of the wines.  Andras confirmed 2022 to be a very promising harvest.  As affirmed by Mr Portillo, the winemaking process sits on the borderline between science and art.

On leaving the winery, Mr Portillo met Coates & Seely’s Head of Sales – Tristram Coates, on board Albion, the classic racing green British Leyland vintage bus, which has become an essential part of the Coates & Seely sales strategy.

Champagne vs English Sparkling Wine

Michael acknowledged that whenever he could afford to celebrate, he would usually choose a bottle of Champagne over Prosecco or Cava and asked Tristram how Coates & Seely are addressing the prejudice and that, in fact, English sparkling wines can be as good if not better than Champagne.

Michael Portillo meets C&S Head of Sales Tristram Coates
Michael Portillo meets C&S Head of Sales Tristram Coates

Tristram asserted that, particularly in the last 15 years, English wines are being produced of incredible quality, as agreed by key opinion formers in the wine industry.  Testament to the quality of the English wines is the venues where the wines can be found; some of London’s best restaurants and, for Coates and Seely, the George V in Paris – the only English wine ever to be drunk there.   

Great English wines

More and more people are beginning to acknowledge that England produces some great wines.  Coates & Seely are proud to celebrate their connection to Champagne.  Tristram continued that a lot of C&S winemakers come from a Champagne background, and that has been instrumental in ensuring that Coates & Seely wines always reach that optimum quality. Championing the craft of Champagne making on English soil.

The interview ended with Michael Portillo declaring his instant conversion to English sparkling wine.

Michael Portillo declares his conversion to English sparkling wine
Michael Portillo declares his conversion to English sparkling wine
Michael Portillo visits Coates & Seely

A Vineyard Diary June 2022

C&S Brut Reserve NV awarded
Best in Show Trophy in 2022 Decanter World Wine Awards

Coates & Seely Brut Reserve NV
Best in Show Trophy in 2022 Decanter World Wine Awards

It is many months since the world we know and love finally re-opened and the spectre of Covid at last evaporated, as bad dreams do, into the sunlight.

In the meantime you have heard very little from us, as we have been using the intervening period to quadruple the size of our original vineyards, from the 30 acres we started with in 2009.

This – combined with the shock induced by the war in Ukraine – accounts for our uncharacteristic silence.

The good news is that our production will now expand accordingly over the next 5-10 years as the new vines grow and we convert the wonderful fruit quality we enjoy into bottles. 

And more important still, the quality of our wines will increase still further, as the land we have acquired is truly outstanding. 

So, we remain excited as ever for the future. 

More recently, Albion, our greatly loved vintage coach, celebrated her own 70th birthday in conjunction with Her Majesty the Queen’s own Platinum Jubilee with star performances at the Four Seasons, Hampshire and the Belgravia street party outside the Gannymede restaurant on the Sunday.

We revelled in a sea of smiling happy faces, joined in gratitude for 70 years of the most remarkable and peerless public service ever witnessed in our long island story.

And then, to end our long absence from you, our Brut Reserve NV last week won the Best in Show Trophy in the 2022 Decanter World Wine Awards with a score of 97 points (and a Platinum medal!).

This wine is a fabulous non-vintage that should probably be selling at twice its retail price, so indulge yourselves and snap some up. (The Rosé, too, is purring temptingly…)

Coates & Seely’s Brut Reserve scores 97 points and Best in Show at Decanter World Wine Awards

We wish you all a very hot and happy summer.

Newsletter June 2021

Following an unprecedented 20 nights of frost in the vineyard our vines survive and we set out on a staycation from Hampshire to the Jurassic Coast.

The Perfect Staycation…

The story so far: after an unprecedented 20 nights of frost in April and the wettest May on record, our vines manage to survive and the sun finally appears. So we set out on a short staycation, to walk the 100 miles of ancient tracks and bridleways from our home in Hampshire to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.

Leaving by the back-door, we cross the garden and stride purposefully out of the gate, leaving our locked car behind us.

Within minutes we are on the Harroway, an ancient iron-age bye-way along which men and women have walked westwards, towards Stonehenge, for thousands of years.

We, too, are heading west, following England’s chalk downlands to the Jurassic coast, in Dorset, 100 miles away, where the chalk finally ends in plunging vistas of white cliffs and sea.

And, like our forebears, we are on foot.

For months the pandemic has kept us largely homebound. But now it’s late May, the sun is at last shining and the pubs are open and available for night-stops.

Our feet are itching.

Coates & Seely new vineyard planting

After a mile, we see our vineyards, which hug either side of a dry chalk valley, and beyond them the diagonal lines of vine-guards that mark the new vineyard we finally finished planting just the previous day.

It’s eleven years since we planted our first vines on these slopes and we have now doubled their acreage. We have found, with our cool climate and English chalk soils, the perfect balance of crisp acidity and beguiling sweetness, as well as the saline minerality, that lie at the heart of all great sparkling wine.

So we are walking now, like pilgrims, across these same chalk downlands, with their rolling contours and brick-and-flint farms, their sheep and wild flowers and gin-clear chalk-streams, in homage to their genius and to their ancient beauty.

We arrive, on the first evening, at The Peat Spade in Longstock, on the banks of the River Test.

A pretty red-brick Victorian house with high painted gables and hexagonally latticed windows, it is framed by the willow trees on the banks of the river behind it. Inside, old brick fire-hearths and wooden floors, panelled walls painted duck-egg blue, brass beer taps and harlequin chairs, upholstered in tartans and ginghams, exude a well-worn, satisfying comfort.

The food, much of it from the river, is both unpretentious and delicious.

We slip into a deep sleep, broken only by a perfectly cooked English breakfast the following morning. Afterwards, we wave goodbye to the friendly staff before regaining the Test River as it widens out across water meadows of buttercup and cow parsley, past the rose gardens of Mottisfont Abbey, before we leave its gentle progress towards Romsey and turn due west into Salisbury.

That night we stand in front of the Cathedral, 800 years old, silent, ethereal, shrouded in a blue summer dusk, but still radiating warmth from the heat of the day. It houses one of only four original copies of Magna Carta in existence.

We stay in the Chapter House, formerly known as the Kings Arms, a Tudor coaching inn overlooking the cathedral that both Charles I and Charles II stayed in. Whilst the deep wood panelling and rickety floors are original, the creature comforts – crisp linen, power showers and attentive, friendly staff – create a satisfying blend of ancient and modern.  It is a mind-bending time-warp, as well as a miracle of deeply comforting continuity.

From Salisbury we follow the River Ebble – one of five chalk streams that converge on the city – westwards to Broadchalke, hugging the river bank as we walk and dousing our sun-burnt faces in the cool waters of the stream.

The Queen’s Head at Broadchalke was rescued three years ago by a local entrepreneur who has restored it brilliantly, safeguarding its ancient beams and brickwork but softening them with subtle paints, oriental runners and quirky pictures to create a family atmosphere that appeals both to loyal regulars, who congregate around the bar, and the diners who travel from further afield to enjoy the excellent home-cooking and freshly sourced local ingredients.

The next morning we make our first serious climb, up across the chalk downs and onto the high ridgeway of the Ox Drove, an ancient track that has transported man and cattle between Salisbury and the market towns of Wessex for thousands of years.

We stop to rest after our climb.

Directly below us, to the north, the land falls in a near-vertiginous grass slope to the occasional ancient village and church tower.

Ahead and behind us there is only sky and the continuation of the high chalk ridge we are walking on. Apart from the trilling of skylarks, whose song vanishes intermittently on the breeze, a deep solitude prevails up here. 

And a timelessness, broken only by the distant hint of the villages below.

Photography courtesy Roger Lane from ‘Cranborne Chase – a secret landscape’ published by Amberley Publications.

We continue our walk along the ridge, heading west, and reach Win Green, one of the highest points in Dorset.  Below us, as our eyes accustom to the wide expanse of down and sky, the circular lines of bronze-age fortifications and the rounded tumuli of burial barrows appear beneath the surface of the thin upland grass.

We descend through Ashcombe and Tollard Royal and finally reach the Museum Inn at Farnham, a masterpiece of pub restoration into supremely comfortable accommodation and a first class restaurant, that never loses the appeal of a great English pub, with its long-won tradition of warmth and conviviality.

It’s another three days before we reach the Dorset coast and first glimpse the white cliffs of Studland Bay above a sea of low mist.

In the meantime we stay in both the family-owned and run Crown Hotel in Blandford and the Kings Arms in Dorchester, the former full of family memorabilia, copper baths, panelled rooms and happy diners, the latter a master class of urban chic and modernity that nevertheless fits perfectly within it fine classical, early Georgian skin.

English pubs and Inns are undergoing a profound change, driven by the vision and flair of inspired individuals and some brilliant, fast-growing hospitality groups.

Combined with the ancient beauty of our chalk downlands and the simple joy of walking, they are surely one of the finest travel experiences around?

Newsletter April 2021

Coates & Seely Voted Top in UK by Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate

Coates & Seely Voted Top in UK by Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate

At last we are moving carefully out of lockdown, even if we are consigned to sitting outside pubs and restaurants on chilly pavements with overhead heaters and blankets protecting us from the easterly winds…!

We have not been idle in lockdown, even if many of our markets have remained closed, and have the following exciting news to impart:

Coates & Seely have been voted top in the UK by Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate

We were delighted to have scored 94 points by Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate for our latest vintage the 2014 Blanc de Noirs ‘La Perfide’.  This is the highest score yet awarded to an English sparkling wine and is the third consecutive year in which one of our wines has been voted best in the UK by The Wine Advocate.

Vintage Blanc de Noirs 'La Perfide'
Coates Seelys new Vintage Blanc de Noirs ‘La Perfide’

James Suckling scores Coates & Seely 93-95pts

Meanwhile James Suckling – perhaps, with Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, the world’s most influential wine critic – has scored our wines as follows:

Coates & Seely Rosé NV         95pts

Coates & Seely Blanc de Noirs 2014 ‘La Perfide’   93pts

Coates & Seely Brut Reserve NV    93pts  

Rosé in green or clear bottles
Coates & Seely’s Classic Rosé scores 95 points

These scores for our Brut Reserve and Rosé NVs are exceptionally high for non-vintage wines and are more typical of grand cru and vintage champagnes.

So, vintage quality for non-vintage prices!

Full tasting notes for both Parker and Suckling can be seen here.

New Labels

You will see that we have now developed new labels, maintaining much of the previous character and the original type-face, but softening and modernizing the presentation. We hope you like them!

Coates & Seely new labels
Coates & Seely sparkling wines:
Brut Reserve, Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Blancs, Rosé

Coates & Seely launch in the US, Hong Kong and Malaysia

With commendable Parker and Suckling scores behind us, we are launching our wines in the US for the first time this summer, partnering with top US East Coast distributor Monsieur Touton Selection, a specialist in high-end restaurants and hotels across the eastern sea-board, with a focus on New York, Boston and Florida.

In Malaysia we are partnering with Malaysia’s pre-eminent wine distributor, Milawa, and have already been listed at the British Embassy in KL, hopefully in time (Suez Canal permitting) for Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Party at the Embassy in June.

Finally, we are in final negotiations with Hong Kong’s leading wine distributor, to complement our existing listing in Macau.

Between them these distribution arrangements will form the basis of an increasing focus over the coming decade on the US and Far Eastern markets,  although Europe, and the UK in particular, will remain our core market.

Blanc de Noirs 2014 ‘La Perfide’

Our new vintage Blanc de Noirs 2014 ‘La Perfide’, ranked best in the UK by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate with 94 points, will be available on allocation.