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Château de Birazel Bordeaux Blanc Romane 2020

Château de Birazel Bordeaux Blanc Romane 2020

I am continuing to explore (in an admittedly somewhat sporadic fashion) the white wines of Bordeaux, both the famous and the less well-known, with a steadily increasing focus on the latter. Because, frankly, who needs to be told the whites of Château Haut-Brion and Domaine de Chevalier taste good? Instead, I am directing the limelight towards some less familiar names.

And this week’s Weekend Wine, an inaugural release from a newly revitalised estate on the peripheries of the Bordeaux region, is undeniably unfamiliar.

Château de Birazel is located near the hamlet of Saint-Hilaire-de-la-Noaille, in Entre-Deux-Mers. We are a long way from vinous civilisation here, a good 30 minutes by car from the vineyards of Sauternes, directly to the west, on the far side of the Garonne, and 45 minutes from St Emilion, directly north, on the far side of the Dordogne. The estate is home to Paul and Nicole Boeckx who purchased the château with 2 hectares of vines in 2017. The move reflected their decision to finally put down roots after many years of business travel, Paul having previously worked in finance and crisis management in a diverse array of economies, including Romania, China, Russia, India and Malaysia.

Château de Birazel Romane 2020

Since their acquisition of the property the pace of change of change has been frantic, the couple having acquired another 14.5 hectares of vineyard the same year, completed the construction of extensive new winemaking facilities in 2020, and this year they have commenced the conversion of the entire vineyard to organic viticulture.

Despite this frenzied activity no wines were produced under the Birazel name until the 2020 vintage, after the completion of the vinification facilities, so this wine hails from Paul and Nicole’s inaugural vintage. It is a blend of 70% Semillon with 15% each Sauvignon Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, produced from 1.56 hectares of white vines aged thirty years on average, planted on slopes of clay, chalk and gravel. The fruit is fermented at a cool temperature, before élevage in a mix of new oak barrels for 40% of the volume, and concrete vats for the remaining 60%. The wine rested for six months before it was bottled.

The immediately striking feature of the 2020 Bordeaux Blanc Romane from Château de Birazel, once it hits the glass, is the fabulously reductive nose. It releases scents of sweet orchard fruits and oatmeal, all served in a decidedly pungent matchsticky reduction which is difficult to resist. It feels coolly composed on the palate, with layers of crystalline fruit laid over a frame of delicious acidity (in a warm vintage, too), a light pithy grip, all swirled with oatmealy oak and that matchsticky bite comes through here too. This is packed with juicy and brightly defined fruits, and I can see this delightful wine drinking well for three or four years. An unfamiliar yet classy white Bordeaux from an unsung corner of the Bordeaux region. The alcohol is 12.5%. 92/100 (27/2/23)

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