Both a domaine with vines in Savigny and a significant négociant business, Seguin-Manuel was since 1824 based in Savigny-lès-Beaune. In September 2005 the business moved to new premises in Beaune under the control of Thibault Marion who had purchased the domaine in 2004; “it was always part of the deal to move” says Thibault, “the family still owned the building in Savigny, living over the cuverie, so once they sold they didn’t want me keeping them awake, working downstairs”.
Three generations of ‘Manuels’ ran the business until the late 1800?s when Marguerite Manuel married Félix Seguin. It was their son Ernest who acquired in 1934 the 14th century buildings and cellars in Savigny originating from the monks of Cîteaux.
Today the domaine run by Thibault is about 4 hectares of mainly Savigny vines and a significantly larger production of négoce wines; today production is about 50,000 bottles, whilst Thibault is targetting 100,000 as optimum. Thibault has spent most of his life associated with the vines of burgundy, coming from the family that own Chanson Père et Fils, but after several years with the family firm he chose to plough his own furrow with the Seguin purchase.
It was 2005 when the name Seguin-Manuel came back to prominence – a sale by Christies, Paris, of bottles from 1900, 1904, 1906 etc., etc. – bottles which got rave reviews when later opened. Thibault says that there were relatively few such bottles that came with his purchase of the domaine, so few in fact that he had limited opportunity to taste them himself, but with the help of Christies they made a great marketing start!
The attractive labeling of today’s bottles are facsimiles of the labels from the 1900?s. When he bought the domaine, their labels were okay, but everyone preferred the older ones.
Wines and Winemaking
A tour of the Beaune cuverie shows a mix of open-top wooden vats, some of these are original Seguin-Manuel vats and are very old with patches here and there where they have been repaired, but it’s the vines that are Thibault’s main focus, and he takes a very pragmatic view of what’s needed. In 2005 for instance, everything was done in an organic way, however, in 2006 and 2007 this was not possible because of the need to spray against rot. Ploughing is used instead of herbicides and pruning is done to provide not just aeration to the bunches of grapes, but also to keep some distance between the bunches so that Thibault might be able to reduce the need for anti-rot compounds. Long-term, organic remains his preferred approach.
All the domaine’s wines come from hand-harvested grapes that then pass through a triage table. Destemming is cuvée dependant, but runs from partial to total. In the main, Thibault looks to handle the grapes as gently as possible without unnecessary crushing. For the whites a pneumatic press is used, and once clarified, the juice is fermented and matured in the wood.
For the reds, Thibault was a late harvester, mainly in October, but the wines show no hint of over-ripe elements. There were 15 cuvées in 2006, and in 2007 there is a new red Beaune 1er – Champimonts.
The 2006 whites are largely sold-out at the domaine, and for 2008 there’s another new Beaune 1er, a white Clos des Mouches.
If I were to summarise my feelings from a single but extensive tasting, the reds have their own style; built, like wines of old, on their acidity but unlike those older bottles the fruit is absolutely ripe. Thibault walks a tightrope here but the results are wonderful. If I’ve already shown my acidic leanings, then for the same reason I will not rave to the same extent on the whites. They are absolutely clean, show well-judged concentration and each in isolation is fine, but as a body of work I was just left wishing for a little more acid-driven vivacity. Mainly from a single vintage it’s hard to judge if this is the house style or driven (like a significant portion of 2006 whites) by picking windows or, more mundanely because I tasted them directly following the perfect acidity of the reds. In any event, the single 2005 representative didn’t show this, so it will be worth revisiting the 2007?s as a counterpoint.
From several plots dotted around the Hautes-Côtes, Chorey and Savigny. The nose majors on a wide expanse of strawberry fruit. In the mouth it’s soft, tasty and also shares the strawberry impression. Far from ‘simple’, there’s decent tannin behind and a good length. Very successful.
2006 Seguin-Manuel, Savigny-lès-Beaune Vieilles-Vignes
From vines averaging over 60 years-old in the flat part of the appellation., but still red. Again from more than one plot and elevaged in 1-2 year-old barrels. The nose is pure and focused. More forward acidity than the bourgogne, with good fruit in the mix. Mouth-wateringly long.
From an approximately 1 hectare plot on the mid-slope. Darker skinned fruit on the nose, but still red. A nice balance in the mouth with additional soft tannin, very good acidity and a lingering finish. Yum.
2006 Seguin-Manuel, Pommard Vieilles-Vignes
From 35 year-old vines. Medium colour. A little mineral, but aromatically tight. Fresh, lithe, plenty of tannin and a lovely fresh burst of interest in the mid-palate and on.
A cuvée made since 2005 from 40 year-old vines. Aromatically wide with delicate red fruits. Ripe and sweet yet retaining super acidity. Another nice burst of interest before the finish – lovely fruit.
2006 Seguin-Manuel, Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles-Vignes
From 3 small plots that abut 1er crus. The nose is deeper with darker, musky fruit. Lithe with good acid balance – the tannins are more forward but are nicely ripe. Good wine that leaves you with a smooth coating on your teeth.
Towards the bottom of the clos so plenty of clay in the soil. A more forward nose whose aromas go deeper still than the Gevrey. Velvet texture and mouth filling. Lots of tannin, chocolate flavours and a long diminuendo of a finish. Not quite austere, but close. Very good.
2006 Seguin-Manuel, Corton
From Les Combes which is near Vigne au Saint. The nose starts slightly reduced but swirling brings ever-fresher notes. Mouth filling, with plenty of slightly grainy tannin. The fruit is pure and flows on through the finish. Good balance here.
Only grapes from the Côte de Beaune, a mix of Hautes Côtes and from the village of Meursault. A forward and fresh nose of faint brioche and attractive fruit. The palate is fresh and smooth and has a nice extra push of flavour in the mid-palate. A very good generic.
2006 Seguin-Manuel, Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Goudelettes
A high-toned, quite floral nose. It’s ripe though the acidity balances it quite well. There is more power in the finish and a good length too.
From a single vineyard in the Clos du Cromin whose vines are 30 years old. The nose is almost tripping out of the glass to meet you. In the mouth it’s a little more understated and shows a subtle but impressive length.
2006 Seguin-Manuel, Puligny-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes
Sourced from the area of Levrons. A forward and quite dense nose. Silky and showing a clear extra dimension to the lovely fruit. Excellent length too – this is super.
A forward, slightly estery nose. Silky and slightly fat with a dense mineral expression – almost oily. Concentrated and lingers in an impressively complex way.