Bordeaux may have more historical acclaim than any other region yet it also seems slowest to change. The ‘garagistes’ of the ’90′s and early ’00′s made people think about the region in a different light but not necessarily one that signaled a shift to a back-to-basics style of winemaking. While other areas seem to be immersed in organic viticulture and a non-interventionist style, very few have taken this path in Bordeaux. Hélène and David Barrault of Château Tire Pé are among the brave and innovative, committed to doing just this.
Originally from the center of France, David’s father was a farmer but did not grow grapes. David came to Bordeaux to study the agriculture business and worked in wineries during the summers. This sparked an interest and after graduating, he worked in Premiéres Côtes de Bordeaux and Saint Emilion for three years.
Before finally putting a stake in the ground in Bordeaux, he considered other regions including Cahors and the Languedoc but after visiting the Tire Pé property 60 kilometers from the city of Bordeaux, he knew he found the right place. It is located in Gironde sur Dropt, overlooking the Garonne, 23 kilometers east of Sauternes. That was in 1997. It needed a lot of work but its terroir, filled with clay and limestone soil, showed great potential. In 2006 he and Hélène started converting to organic viticulture and Tire Pé has been certified since 2011.
Tire Pé overlooking the Garonne
Mildew is a big issue in Bordeaux. In 2012, Château Tire Pé lost 60% of its crop so if necessary, they may need to resort to spraying copper or sulphur in the vineyards, which is allowed with organic certification. Otherwise, the vineyards are biologically integrated and shepherded with minimal intervention.
David and Hélène’s house, with the winery in the back
They are part of a group called ‘Contains Sulfites, mais pas trop,’ (but not too much), a small band of like-minded producers from all over France. The message is pretty clear: minimal sulfites are added but the amount that is used is a fraction of the norm. This philosophy also guides them in cellar as nothing else is added to the wine during the winemaking process.
David and Hélène make three wines and all are just about as simple a designation as Bordeaux gets: Bordeaux AOC. However, in contrast to what one might find in the typical bottle of this type of wine, each cuvée is from a specific piece of land. They feel their terroir provides ample expression, no matter what the label says. The Barraults also want their wines to be accessible not only from a flavor standpoint but also pricewise.
The combination of all of these things is what drew me to Tire Pé but it was meeting David and Hélène that finalized the deal. I met David in person at a Natural Wine Tasting organized in the Loire Valley in early 2013. Not surprisingly, Tire Pe was the only Bordeaux at that tasting. Then, I decided to visit the Barrault at the end of a week of prospection I had organized in Bordeaux during the same trip. It was the last tasting before heading towards the Roussillon and it was my favorite. By far. The freshness, liveliness and precision of the wines finished to convince me that we had to import them to California. They are a very exciting addition to our portfolio.
We will receive the cuvée Diem in early September with more cuvees arriving a few months later .
Château Tire Pé ‘Diem’
The vines for this cuvée are among the Barrault’s youngest – around ten years old. Intended to be straightforward and fresh, it undergoes a short 8-10 day fermentation and then is aged 6-8 months in concrete before bottling.
This is as pure an expression of Merlot as you will find. Ideal for a picnic, aperitif or barbeque, it is juicy and bright with typical Bordeaux notes of black currant, blackberry and bramble. Its presence and personality make it ideal for sharing. Suggested Retail Price: $12.50