Family Affair in Bordeaux
Maison Sichel located in Bordeaux has been making wine since 1883 and has remained a family affair since. Acting as Bordeaux wine negociants and then eventually winemakers, the tradition of selling and making wine has been passed down through several generations, Alexander Sichel is the latest of this generation of winemakers and Bordeaux negociants.
Third Street Wine Shop was honored to host Alexander Sichel of Bordeaux’s Maison Sichel on October 1 for a wine and food pairing of his family’s wines.
Bordeaux Negociants Turn Winemakers
Maison Sichel has been making wine since 1883, acting as negociants – buying Bordeaux wines en primeur and selling Bordeaux wines globally. After setting up shop in the heart of Bordeaux in 1883, they along with three other families acquired the illustrious Château Palmer in 1938. Viewed as one of the flagship estates of Bordeaux, Château Palmer is known for their luscious silky merlot (as featured in Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible – available at the shop). Their second acquisition in 1961—Château Angludet—is considered by many wine critics as one of the best estates in the Médoc (we were pleased to feature this wine during the pairing).
There are very few visionaries as well respected as Maison Sichel, they have the uncanny ability to see the untapped potential of the undervalued wine growing regions of France. Not necessarily concerned with classifications and AOC designations, they are gifted with the ability to realize the potential of the land and the grapes that would thrive there, explaining their investment in Château Trillol in Corbières AOC in the Languedoc-Rousillon and their representation of family friends: Domaine Pellehaut.
We were pleased to welcome Alexander Sichel of Maison Sichel to Third Street Wine Shop earlier this October. Whatever biases you have about the French being snobby, toss those premonitions out the window, Alexander is one of the most humble and gracious Frenchmen (and future winemakers) that we’ve had the pleasure to work with. A true representation of a family owned and operated Bordeaux negociant and winery, he is both knowledgeable and humble.
French Wine Style
When discussing the winemaking style of Maison Sichel, one word comes to mind: approachable, French wines perfect for beginners! Alexander is approachable and so are his wines. When asked what Maison Sichel’s winemaking style was, he responded that it was made with the consumer in mind. There’s been a shift in the expectations of Bordeaux consumers: they want something that will both age, but also is enjoyable now.
Third Street Wine: How should we enjoy Maison Sichel wines? What would you say Maison Sichel’s wine style is right now?
Alexander: [We want people to be] proud to open up bottles to be enjoyed with friends and family, usually around a dinner. [We make wines] a little more on the acidic side to complement the food [of a dinner].
Third Street Wine: What is Maison Sichel’s overall wine style?
Alexander: It depends on the estate. Typical of Bordeaux wine characteristics, Bordeaux is known to make wines that are highly tannic, Maison Sichel focuses on making big, but well-balanced wines that can be consumed young. The current trend in Bordeaux is to make wines approachable young, organic, and sustainable, making Maison Sichel some of the best Bordeaux wines to drink now.
French Wine & Food Pairing Special Guests
Alexander studied business at Oxford (explains why his English is so damn good!), then returned to Bordeaux to learn the family business. Maison Sichel is, at its heart, a family business. When asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, since not everyone dreams of being in wine, he responded that, “he always wanted to work with the family; [he] always saw his uncles having so much fun. He wanted to stay close to the family.” Alexander has been “studying” wine since he was young, he worked in the fields during the summer with his uncle (current winemaker) to earn some extra money. While working with his uncle during the summer, he learned about the viticulture process (grape growing), soil types, pruning the grapes—vineyard management. Alexander then traveled to Australia to work in the Margaret River region to work the harvest for seven months. After helping making wine for Château Angludet and Château Argadens in 2010, we wouldn’t be surprised if Alexander was the next winemaker for Maison Sichel.
You would think that for a family as well respected as Maison Sichel, Alexander would be a touch arrogant…no such thing. During our French Wine Pairing, Alexander was anything but pretentious, not only was he humble and gracious, but knowledgeable and attentive. Alex (that’s what we refer to him at the shop), took time with each of our guests to answer any questions and explain the mission and purpose of Maison Sichel. Accompanied by his wingman and California representative, Mitch, the reason we were able to host this event with Alex, Maison Sichel was a smash hit! Between Alex, the Bordeaux Frenchman, and Mitch, a professed Francophile (favorite French wines: white wines from Mersault, Burgundy and reds from either Burgundy or Northern Rhône) we had an encyclopedia of wine knowledge available to our guests.
Make no mistake, the shop was dressed to the nines (I mean when you have special guests, the shop steps it up a notch). We featured wines from Maison Sichel, with appetizers by Nuno’s Bistro, Upland. Third Street Wine Shop strives to provide unique wine experiences to our guests, not only do we want our events to be enjoyable, but approachable, and Maison Sichel’s winemaking style and approachability of their representatives fit the shop perfectly. It is our belief that wine and food should be paired to enhance the experience, we strive for the best of both worlds, after all that’s the whole point for enjoying wine with food.
Future of Bordeaux Wines
Bordeaux has an interesting future ahead of it; there is a growing trend towards organic and sustainable wine production. Maison Sichel is taking a gradual approach to integrating organic vineyards in their wine production. Alex said that they will not compromise quality over organic. Vineyards take time to adjust to the changes, and that many Bordeaux vineyards simply cannot afford or risk the possibility that the year’s crop is inadequate. Fortunately for Maison Sichel, they are striving to respect the environment, but will also take things one step at a time and slowly integrate organic grapes into their wines. There are big things ahead for this winery.
We’re looking forward to the future of Maison Sichel, and who we think will be the next head winemaker, Alex. Looking forward to (possibly) hosting Maison Sichel for another tasting, if Alex isn’t too busy making wine!
Until then…à votre santé (Cheers!)