In 2006 Christian Seely, the English Managing Director of of Axa Millésimes (owners of Château Pichon-Longueville, Chateau Suduiraut and Quinta do Noval, among others) had the first inklings of an idea.
At around the same time in the City of London - two years before the global banking crisis - an old friend of Seely's, Nicholas Coates, resigned from a successful career in finance and returned to his home at the foot of the North Hampshire Downs in England, determined to discover a new way of life in tune with the countryside around him.
A year later, in October 2007, the two friends – who had first met at business school in Fontainebleau over twenty years previously - sat on the vine-covered terrace of Seely’s Bordeaux home and proceeded to turn that initial idea into a hard plan: to create, in partnership together, a great English sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes grown on the Southern chalk downlands of England.
They would call their sparkling wine 'Coates & Seely'.
A year passed, during which they scoured the slopes of southern England, in vain, for the ideal terroir. Then, on the verge of giving up, a series of chance encounters led them to a secluded valley of outstanding natural beauty only a mile and a half from Coates' Hampshire home. On one side of the valley, a south-facing chalk slope was planted already with a twenty-acre vineyard. Known as 'The Wooldings', it had been established by Charles Cunningham, a 48 year old Englishman, fifteen years previously. Tragically, Charles' life was cut short seven years previously and, as an act of devotion, the vineyard was being kept going by his 84-year old widowed mother, Daphne Cunningham. It was with her that Coates & Seely formed a partnership to develop the site into a best-in-class vineyard of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines capable of producing the highest quality fruit for English sparkling wine.
The following summer, a further eighteen-acre, south-east facing chalk slope opposite the original Wooldings vineyard was also planted out with new Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay vines, bringing the total under vine at the Wooldings to thirty acres.
There had once been a winery at the Wooldings, and the original building was now refurbished and state-of-the-art wine-making technology from France imported. In line with Coates & Seely's passionate commitment to quality, the investment in equipment and processes in the new winery was of the highest standard.
The objective was, and remains, to combine traditional methods used in Champagne with the best of modern technology to produce a sparkling wine that reflects both the unique characteristics of English chalk terroir and the established craft of the French winemaker.
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