The Proust Q&A: Christian Seely24th April, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt
AXA Millésimes managing director Christian Seely on his fears, loves and hates as well as where he wants his ashes scattered.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
To sit at the end of a dining table after Sunday lunch with a decanter of Vintage Port circulating, surrounded by family and friends.
What is your greatest fear?
Being beaten at chess by my 11 year-old son. Of course I want him to be better than me (at everything in fact), just not yet.
Who do you most admire?
I admire people who confront desperate situations with courage and cheerfulness. My father was like that.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Wine of course. But I take the view that everything in my life comes from wine, and so I never worry about giving it back when I buy a great bottle in a restaurant for example.
What is your current state of mind?
Cheerful and serene.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Gaiety. The ability to enchant the hours.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Come on let’s try it. We don’t have to finish the bottle.”
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Far too dangerous to talk about people. If we are talking about things, then it is of course the vineyard of Quinta do Noval. I love to be there. I hate to leave. In my will I ask for my ashes to be scattered there, so one day I will be there and never leave again.
When and where were you happiest?
The days my two sons were born. In Bordeaux in both cases.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to dance, but in spite of many efforts from patient teachers, the thing is impossible.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would like to sleep more.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being a good father, to the extent that I am.
Where would you most like to live?
Dividing my time between France the Douro and London seems a pretty good compromise to me.
What is your most treasured possession?
I really don’t have one of those.
What is your most marked characteristic?
A lack of self knowledge that makes it difficult to answer this question.
Who are your favorite writers?
There is quite a list: Henry James, Turgenev, Stendhal, Eca de Queiroz, Tennessee Williams, Henry Fielding, Balzac, Jonathan Swift, Faulkner.
Who is your hero of fiction?
Jay Gatsby because of his capacity for hope.
What is it that you most dislike?
Meanness of spirit.
What is your greatest regret?
Any occasion on which I might have hurt another person
What is your motto?
I have two: Trust in Life and Decline is not Inevitable.
Who would be your ideal dinner party guests and what wines would you serve them?
They would be literary, but not exactly corresponding to my favourite authors, as being a great author is not always consistent with being a convivial human being. So I would invite: Henry Fielding; Laurence Sterne; Turgenev; Byron; Scott Fitzgerald; Thackeray, Henry James in the hope we could get him to let his hair down a bit, and Dorothy Parker. As host I would hope that she might drink four Martinis. I would serve them Coates and Seely Blanc de Blancs, Pichon Baron 2004, Romaneira Reserva 2009, Suduiraut 2005 and Quinta do Noval Nacional 94.
Christian Seely – son of wine merchant and writer James Seely – was born in the UK in 1960 and studied English at Cambridge. He is currently managing director of AXA Millésimes, which owns Pauillac second growth Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Châteaux Pibran in Pauillac, Petit-Village in Pomerol, Suduiraut in Sauternes, Mas Belles Eaux in the Languedoc, as well as Domaine de l’Arlot in Nuits-St-Georges, Disznókő in Hungary and Quinta do Noval in Portugal.
He is also president of Bordeaux Négociant Compagnie Médocaine, which is also owned by AXA Millésimes.
Seely is also managing director and part owner of Quinta da Romaneira in the Douro, and co-founder and joint owner of Coates and Seely Ltd, producer of English sparkling wine in Hampshire, England.
He lives today in the city of Bordeaux with his wife Corinne, stepson Antoine, and sons Theodore and Alexander.
Click here to read an interview with Christian Seely in November 2011, which featured in the inaugural issue of The Drinks Business Hong Kong.