Bringing a Bordeaux Wine Estate to Life: Passion at Chateau Biac
Social Vignerons is all about sharing, simply, our passion for wine and the stories of its world.
When a passionate vigneron gets in touch, willing to share his/her story, I get excited to share with you all, loyal readers.
Yasmina Asseily of Chateau Biac approached me with the story of the struggle of her family and herself to bring a Bordeaux estate back to life and grandeur.
A true story of passion and life, like we love them.
Here are her words, here is her story:
“I – Bringing a Bordeaux estate with a diverse terroir to life:
My parents bought Biac in 2006 and found it in a very poor state.
The vineyard needed serious attention and you could see the stars through the roof of the winery! We had to make a strategic decision: either we stopped the production of wine completely, or we brought the property back to life, but it only made sense if we could make a high quality wine. We had heard that the soil was quite unique at Biac (you have probably heard this a million times!), but as you will see from the photos, we overlook the Garonne facing South-South West, and the movement of water flowing towards us and bending around to the right used to occur many centuries ago above the vineyard. The result of this is an extremely diverse terroir in that we go from pure clay to very dense gravel on just 9.8 hectares of vines.
Steven Spurrier likened our terroir to Burgundy in Bordeaux because of this phenomenon on such a small area of land. See my mother’s painting of the terroir where you can see the evolution from 2006 to 2014.
II – Bring the right people in:
We were extremely lucky in that we met Patrick Leon (ex-Technical Director of Mouton Rothschild for 15 years and creator of Opus One and Almaviva) in the first year, whom we also discovered had tried to buy Biac twice in the nineties because of the terroir! When he saw that my parents were serious about making a good quality wine, he accepted to become our oenologist for our red wines.
We already had Christine Sourdes (who also consults for Guiraud and Myrat amongst others) for our sweet wines. Together with Patrick and Gilles Rey, our soil engineer, we set about restructuring the vineyard over 12 years so that the average age of the vines does not drop too low, and when we replant, we first put a new drainage system below the plots, choose the most appropriate rootstock, grape varietal and clone suited to the soil, and double the density of the vines (we are now at 9,100 vines/Hectare) purely for quality.
We have now finished replanting and will be at our maximum production in 2018…!
III – Getting the Technique right:
We re-instated manual harvesting, and we vinify by plot and sub-plot.
The wine is aged for 14-16 months in approx. 40% new French oak barrels, 40% one wine and 20% two wines.
We blend gradually to make our red wines: Chateau Biac, B de Biac and Felix de Biac. They are all of the same quality in that the grapes which go into Felix one year may end up in the Chateau the following year. They are just three different expressions of the terroir, with a different purpose:
- The Chateau is designed to be aged and drunk over a long period of time
- The B can also be aged but is ready to drink slightly earlier than the Chateau
- Felix is our everyday drinking wine.
My mother often says that in musical terms, the Chateau is the symphony, the B the chamber music, and Felix the song we sing under the shower every day!“
Section I, II, and II of this post were written by Yasmina Asseily of Chateau Biac exclusively for Social Vignerons.