UK – Coates and Seely

And sometimes we are really, really excited by a new producer. Welcome Coates and Seely. England’s first, but certainly not last sparkling wine to hit Canadian soil.

How it happened:

We first heard about English fizz a few years ago, but never paid it too much mind. This past March, a small Lifford crew headed to London for the RAW Wine Fair; we figured we may as well check out some English vineyards, we were so close by. We called one of our favourite wine journalists and friends Jamie Goode to be our tour guide and curate a day of sparkling visits. He chose his three favourites and chauffeured us to boot. Wine people. The best.

We visited three of the regions stars. All were impressive and exciting to witness. Exciting for a number of reasons. First and foremost, exciting because they were delicious, well-made, lively wines of place. Exciting also because these are wines that couldn’t have been made twenty years ago. Champagne has seen a temperature rise every year in the last decade. So has England. Frankly put: the English climate has just moved from the wrong to the right side of marginal. The right side of marginal means perfect, cool, challenging conditions to make world class sparkling wine. The Brits have another thing going for them: soil. The chalk downs of Southern England have the same geological structure as Grand Cru Champagne. That is not to say the region does not have its sceptics. There are many. And that is the third reason this region is so exciting, the people. These are passionate trailblazing producers hell-bent on showing the world how special their wines are. We can’t wait to lend a hand.

We choose to begin with Coates & Seely for the people, the place and the product.

The People: Nicholas Coates and Christian Seely met in the 80s in business school. Fast-friends, they kept in touch. Both achieved success, Nick in banking and Christian in restoring historic wine properties to their former glory from Quinta do Noval in Portugal, to Pichon Longueville, Petit-Village and Suduiraut in Bordeaux to Domaine de L’Arlot in Nuits St. Georges.

At the age of 47 Nick decided he didn’t want to die a banker. He quit his job and moved his family to a gorgeous 18th-century manor home in Hampshire. In Bordeaux late one evening, he shyly brought up a dream that had been bubbling ever since moving home, to make not only England’s best sparkling wine, but sparkling wine to rival the world’s best Champagne. Christian was beyond in. Within minutes they were drafting a business plan. This is a project of passion.

The Place: 100% estate fruit. 100% Hampshire Chalk.

Their main vineyard site, Woodlings is a 12-hectare property in a secluded valley just a mile and a half from Nicholas Coates’s home. When he came across it in 2007after 6 months of searching, it was completely overgrown, but the soil looked right. He sent it to Bordeaux for analysis and it came back as “un sol Champenois”. Perfect.

The Product: Coates & Seely is tiny. At just 65,000 bottles produced annually, with no plans to expand, they were by far the smallest winery we visited. They are making a non-vintage Brut and Rose, both available in Ontario and British Columbia. These wines are poured at some of the greatest restaurants around the world including The Fat Duck, Dinner by Heston Bluementhal, Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Georges V and Hotel Bristol.

A last cheeky thing we love. Their method, proudly declared on their label is “Britannique”. It of course implies a region, but also suggests a sparkling wine that draws from the tradition of 300 years of great Champenois winemaking, whilst remaining proudly British. Britagne can only be made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes where second fermentation occurs in bottles and a number of other best viticultural and wine-making techniques are rigorously adhered to. We like it.

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