Seiichi Saito is another Japanese winemaker who is beginning to make a big impression in France. He moved there back in 2006 to study winemaking in Beaune, as well as perform work experience at Domaine Simon-Bize. Previously in Japan he had obtained a diploma in soil science, and it was from this that he gained an interest in vines and vineyards. He did a year’s experience at a Japanese winery, and then decided to move to France to learn more. He formed a great relationship at Domaine Simon-Bize, where he ended up working for the next 10 years. After this he moved to Domaine Leflaive for a year, to learn more about biodynamics. Next it was with Domaine Jacques Frédéric Mugnier and finally with Domaine Armand Rousseau, before deciding to take the plunge and start his own operation. Not only has he paid his dues, but he’s learnt from some of the best in Burgundy. Seiichi now has a miniscule 1.3ha of organically farmed vines in Burgundy, and also purchases grapes from other farmers to make ends meet. His dream is to increase his holdings bit by bit, but obviously Burgundy is not cheap, and so the negoce element is necessary for the moment. However, the wines offered via Larkin Imports are strictly from Seiichi’s vineyards – personally I think they taste better, and the grapes purchased from vineyards aren’t quite organic yet.
He has a very small, compact room for his tanks, and his underground cellar is tiny - so much so that I couldn't stand up straight in there and had to lean slightly sideways while tasting. A good laugh for Seiichi. And, as you would expect, everything is highly organised and spotless. This is something I notice with winemakers who have very clean wines - they are tidy and meticulous in everything they do. No adds are used at all apart from a tiny amount of SO2 before bottling, and only old oak is used. There is no fining or filtration and all wines are bottled by gravity as well. Seiichi is so passionate about what he does. He tells me that he loves the culture of wine. The connection to mother nature, the way it brings people together and the never ending obsession to learn more. He farms with absolute care, using biodynamic preparations and with the upmost respect for the land. In fact he has an allergy to copper sulfate, and so prefers to use milk, herbal preparations, teas and essential oils to spray the vines when possible. And you can tell every step of the winemaking is carefully thought out – these are wines of detail and precision, and a breath of fresh air after the sometimes overpriced and disappointing Burgundy that we often find today.
Only tiny, tiny quantities of these wines came into Australia. If you would like to secure something new, interesting, rare, and of very good quality then this is your chance. This is new age, approachable and delicious Burgundy that is not to be missed.