Jean-Philippe Fort - Château de Birazel producteur de vins rouge et blanc Bordeaux Sud Gironde Domaine viticole familial à Saint-Hilaire-de-la-Noaille

A meeting with Jean-Philippe Fort, oenologist at the Rolland cabinet – 2/2

How did you meet the Château de Birazel team ?

I met the former owner of the vineyards, Mr Berger, on the occasion of a technical seminar on the integral winemaking method, organized at a cooper’s I was advising. With Jeremy Maury, they told me about a project that was only a draft then. They called me a year later and invited me to meet the new owner, before the technical installations were done.

What is interesting with the Boeckx’ project is that they have the will and means to succeed, and their vines are rooted in beautiful terroirs.

Why did the project of the Boeckx family seduce you ?

I concurred with the project because I love creation. I have been a consultant for 30 years. At the end of you career, you master almost all the technical aspects, and the projects starting from scratch —with both an innovative, ambitious, and coherent spirit, and adequate resources— are much more exciting and rewarding intellectually.
What is interesting with the Boeckx’ project is that they have the will and means to succeed, and their vines are rooted in beautiful terroirs. What’s more, and also important, is we have good chemistry. To attract a high-end clientele, you need to implement a high-end approach, and they understood that very well. They liked my speech, and that first encounter lead to a collaboration offer.

Château de Birazel producteur de vins rouge et blanc Bordeaux Sud Gironde Domaine viticole familial à Saint-Hilaire-de-la-Noaille

Michel Rolland’s philosophy in four quotes

  • The field awakens, shakes, enlightens us; it is our duty to exploit its promises. A swerve into the unforeseen fights the unyielding certitudes.
  • The hardest part is not to apply techniques or recipes, but to change habits. You have to be efficient in the vineyard to understand its cycle, respect it, and intervene less, treat less.
  • You always get better wines with good grapes than with great oenologists.
  • What lies on the bottom of a glass should be called emotion.

What features of the new wine cellar do you find particularly crucial and valuable ?

New concrete vats and diamond tanks, wood casks for the second wine, amphoras: the idea is to not put all our eggs in one basket. Bordeaux grape varieties require to be matured in casks, notably for a good polishing of the tannins. Our common wish is to blend ingredients so as to recreate the complexity of the wines, a wide range of tastes and styles. This rigorous process calls for a consolidation phase, after which the technical winegrowing choices are approved, or not. It is essential that the teams adhere to the strategy for the collective work to be effective. My role is to guide, to propose innovative ideas and modern solutions, and to put my international client palette at their service.

Jean-Philippe Fort - Château de Birazel producteur de vins rouge et blanc Bordeaux Sud Gironde Domaine viticole familial à Saint-Hilaire-de-la-Noaille

What are the prospects for the first Château de Birazel wines ?

We are expecting positive outcomes very shortly. Mr Boeckx applies the methods used for the Grands Crus Classés, which I recommended, especially in the ageing and blending phases. For the white wine, the Château still depends on other winegrowers. The family plans to plant white grape to better control the technical aspects, but this is still at an embryonic stage. The first white wine produced at the Château, christened Romane, will be presented next month. As for the first red wine stemming only from the Birazel vineyards, Paulus, it will be launched this summer.
The reflection on replanting also applies to the red wine. The Merlot grapes need to be compensated with so-called “exotic” grape varieties to avoid wines that might be too heavy, too alcoholised, and to adapt to the new climatic conditions. Single-varietal wines are now extremely rare. The Bordeaux wines have long been put in very strict boxes, but the landscape is more complex and variegated.
It is very pleasant and rewarding to tell clients “Here is what you should do to have great wines,” and then to see them happy with their baby. Those moments generate an interior jubilation I never tire of.

Entretien réalisé par Alice Pétillot

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