Château Tire Pé Bordeaux Les Malbecs 2016
There is an argument – part valid, part short-sighted – that says Bordeaux receives too much attention, and perhaps too much unfettered adulation, from the wine world. There is some truth to this; the Bordeaux primeurs kick off in late March and can rumble on for too many months, and with a well-organised PR machine organising tastings of bottled wines across the world, the region and its wines are never far from the news.
On the other hand, this very well publicised high-class slice of Bordeaux is really only a small part of this extensive wine region. Beyond the classed growths of the Médoc, Pessac-Léognan, St Emilion and the Pomerol big guns there is a huge expanse of vineyards which remains seemingly unexplored, its soils, vineyards and domaines no less a mystery than those of Haut-Poitou, or Saint-Pourçain, or the Coteaux de Vendômois (to name three Loire appellations I could surely explore in a little more depth). Paradoxically, while wine drinkers rightly despair at the famous names of Bordeaux and their ever-higher prices, some of these less-publicised corners of the Bordeaux region still offer great value for money; indeed, for every big-ticket bottle of Pomerol or Pauillac there is another from the Haut-Médoc appellation, or the Bordeaux Côtes, or the Entre-Deux-Mers, which will provide joy for a less eye-watering outlay. I would argue that, far from being over-hyped, these more anonymous corners of Bordeaux don’t receive as much attention as they should.
One bottle that came my way this weekend certainly belongs in this camp; a 100% Malbec cuvée from Château Tire Pé.
Château Tire Pé is located near La Réole, on the right bank of the Garonne, a long way upstream of the city of Bordeaux. Technically this is the Entre-Deux-Mers, but in truth it is a very peripheral part of the region’s vineyards, not that far from Monségur, Marmande and Duras, all of which lie a short drive east of here. The vineyard was acquired in 1997 by David and Hélène Barrault. The varieties planted are largely those we would expect, which means Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and the rather obscure Castets variety, as well as – to my great surprise – Pineau d’Aunis, a Loire variety more at home in the aforementioned Coteaux du Vendômois appellation than it is here in France’s south-west. David and Hélène have run the domaine organically since 2008, with Ecocert certification coming in 2011, and they work the vineyards using horses of which – given that Sarah also runs the neighbouring equestrian centre – they presumably have no shortage.
The cuvée Les Malbecs comes from 1 hectare of vines planted on the domaine’s clay and limestone soils. As a nod to the historical significance of the variety to the Bordeaux region, before it was usurped by Merlot and the Cabernets, the Barraults decided to vinify and bottle it separately. The vines are about 18 years old, the fruit picked by hand and then fermented with up to three weeks of maceration. The élevage lasted 18 months, with part of the blend in terracotta jars and part in 400- and 500-litre barrels.
In the glass the 2016 Bordeaux Les Malbecs from Château Tire Pé has a great colour, looking opaque and glossy at its heart, with a thin rim of a raspberry hue. The nose is dark, savoury and mineral, smoky with crushed limestone alongside blackcurrant skins, currants, black pepper and smoke. There is a fine structure to the palate which reflects the character suggested on the nose, and it seems to speak clearly of its limestone origins. As I drink it I have a flashback to sitting in Château Reynon, with the late Denis Dubourdieu, and his wines which seemed to have been infused with limestone grip and taut tannins; I get the same feeling here, and this is clearly another wine punching well above its ‘generic appellation’ weight. It presents a combination of dark and tightly grained structure built from polished calcareous tannins, with dark and savoury fruits, driven along by a fresh sense of energy and acidity. Nicely balance, with lovey freshness, but also density and honesty. This is a very fine result which would age as well as any ‘grand vin‘, and the alcohol is a modest (these days) 13.5%. 92/100 (20/9/21)
Read more in: