Obituary: Peter Sichel

PETER SICHEL was an English gentleman in Bordeaux. He had only been in Bordeaux for 12 years when he was elected President of the Bordeaux Wine Merchants Association in 1972.

In the Bordeaux establishment's notoriously closed community, this was a considerable achievement in itself. But he soon found himself embroiled in the intricacies of the Bordeaux wine crash of 1973 which had involved fraud and corruption following the world-wide collapse of the 1972 vintage. In the event he won enormous respect for the diplomacy and skill with which he handled one of Bordeaux's worst ever crises.

Peter Sichel was born in Hampstead, north London, to the Anglo-French branch of an influential wine-trade family, whose involvement in wine dates back to mid-18th-century Germany. The German branch became famous for the development of the Blue Nun brand, through Walter Sichel in Britain, and Peter's cousin Peter Max Sichel in America. Peter Sichel's great-grandfather established the Sichel office in Bordeaux in 1883, initially as a branch of the family firm, H. Sichel Sohne, based in Mainz in Germany.

At first dividing his time between Bordeaux and the UK, Sichel eventually settled in Bordeaux after meeting his wife, Diana, a scion of the Heathcoat-Amory family. One of his major achievements was to put the ancient Margaux property, Chateau d'Angludet, on the Bordeaux wine map. Bought in 1961 as a virtual ruin after the devastating frosts of 1956 (it produced just four barrels of wine in that legendary vintage), d'Angludet today has become one of the most sought after cru bourgeois clarets.

He was also the major shareholder in Chateau Palmer, in which his father, Allan Sichel, invested in 1938, with three other Bordeaux families. Considered folly at the time, the investment took 20 years to show a return. Today, Chateau Palmer is widely regarded as one of the superstars in Bordeaux's constellation of crus classes.

Sichel maintained the tradition started by his father, whose Penguin Book of Wines was published in 1965, of releasing an annual report on the new Bordeaux vintage. The Sichel Vintage and Market Report was eagerly awaited by the wine trade as much for its detailed factual content as for its insights into the state of the market and Sichel's own wry comments on his current bete noire, whether it be the encroachment of New World wines or the fickle British wine journalist.

Peter Sichel was one of a rare breed in Bordeaux who managed successfully to combine the separate roles of merchant and chateau-owner. A strong believer in the business sense of adding value to the product, he was in fact the first wine merchant to become a wine maker, establishing a winery, the Cave Bel-Air, in 1967.

Although he had his hands full with his own projects, he still found time to become President in 1988 of the powerful association of top chateaux, the Union des Grands Crus, a phoenix which arose from the ashes of the 1973 crash. At a time when the New World was beginning to emerge as a competitive force to be reckoned with, his vision as an ambassador for Bordeaux and its traditional, old-world values was much respected.

In the face of stiff competition from the New World, he always championed the very French notion of terroir. In his view, the location of the vineyard stamps a wine with its own very distinctive character as against what he saw as the anonymity of varietal wines from the New World. "Character comes from the terroir, but quality depends on the winemaking," said Sichel. He admired, perhaps even envied, the marketing skills of the New World, wishing French wines could employ similar skill and techniques.

In 1987, he launched his own brand, Sirius, in response to the success of New World brands on export markets. He was unrelenting in his pursuit of the Sichel brand name. After a Which? Wine Monthly report on Bordeaux Rouge which had criticised a number of his wines, he physically pursued the journalist in question at a London tasting, brandishing a corkscrew.

Sichel was a wine enthusiast with vision. Not content to sit on his Bordeaux laurels, he invested in the Domaine du Reverend estate at Cucugnan in the Corbieres in 1989, and in the following year he bought another estate, Domaine du Trillol. As he approached retirement Corbieres became his viticultural mistress. It was a challenge for a man with such deep faith in the properties of terroir to invest in the Languedoc-Roussillon, a region with no track record of great vineyard sites.

He and his wife Diana had five sons, all involved in the business today, and a daughter. "Our strength today is that I have five sons in the firm," said Sichel proudly shortly before he died. When the British journalist Nicholas Faith recently told him he thought his son Ben was making better wine at Chateau d'Angludet than he ever had, Peter Sichel smiled with relief, happy to acknowledge that his children had well and truly taken over the mantle.

Peter Allan Sichel, wine merchant, grower and winemaker: born London 19 September 1931; married 1962 Diana Heathcoat-Amory (five sons, one daughter); died Bordeaux, France 22 February 1998.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

    SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

    Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

    £85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

    Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

    £55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor