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The Estate

2006

Château Biac map2006

From 2006 to 2014, important changes were made to the vineyard: deep analysis of its soil by Gilles Rey, our agricultural consultant, revealed its extraodinary diversity on a mere 9.7 hectares.

2014

Château Biac map Fer à cheval Château Biac Grand Journal (GJ1) Château Biac Grand Journal (GJ2) Gaillard Château Biac Gaillard Château Biac Noël Château Biac Verger Château Biac Garenne Château Biac Sorbier Château Biac Sorbier Château Biac Chiquette 2 Château Biac Chiquette 1 Château Biac Les Graves (LG2) Château Biac Les Graves (LG1)

Biac can now be likened to “Burgundy in Bordeaux”: a cluster of small domains each with its own, well defined soil type and matching grape variety, root stock or clone. Spot the difference between the two maps!

To become a winemaker or not?

Imagine waking up in the middle of a vineyard, with the city dust just settling on your shoes, surrounded by thousands of vines and not the faintest (or maybe just a little) idea of what to do next...
Very quickly we realized that we needed professional help at the highest level and a lot of energy! The vineyard was tired and the winery needed a thorough rethinking to produce a wine in tune with Biac’s potential and historic reputation.
During the summer of 2007, we met Christine Sourdes, oenologist to Château Guiraud and Château de Myrat, who was instantly seduced by our Semillons (hopefully a little by us too). Thanks to her deep knowledge of the region, Christine was able to steer steadily the first vintage of our Cadillac sweet wine: Secret de Château Biac was born that year.
Our big break for the red wines came during a dinner party arranged by a friend to introduce us to Patrick Léon. A legend in the winemaking world, Patrick Léon had taken a step back from the Bordeaux scene after almost 20 years as technical director of the Mouton Rotschild wine estates (including Opus One in California and Almaviva in Chile).
Patrick’s knowledge of Biac’s unique potential and his belief in our determination to see the project through convinced him to be our red wine consultant.
With his long time collaborating agricultural engineer, Gilles Rey, who also joined the team, we felt much more confident to face the future!
A restructuring plan of the vineyard was prepared. In order not to lower too dramatically the average age of the vines, its implementation would span 12 years. Deep holes were dug to map out the soil components; where the vines looked tired or mismatched with the soil, we reviewed varietals, rootstocks and clones; extra underground drainage was installed to avoid possible water pockets and a policy of high density planting (1.10m between rows) implemented.
Gilles Rey declared he didn’t know of a more diverse range of soils on such a small property in the region.
Simultaneously, work began in earnest on the winery: the old stone walls released from decades of cement covering them up, now house a carefully selected number of small thermo regulated stainless vats (17hl to 90hl). A little winery was built inside the existing one to allow the making of our sweet wine side by side with the red.

Château Biac-A Year in the vineyard

A Year in the Vineyard

There are very few idle moments on a vineyard… And our consultants make sure we don’t forget it!
Throughout the year, many tasks are undertaken to help the vines mature efficiently during their growing cycle: most interventions are manual (and backbreaking!), others, like ploughing, require mechanical help from specially equipped tractors or “enjambeurs”.
At Château Biac, our philosophy is to look after the vines as we look after ourselves (hopefully). Many people ask whether we are organic, or bio dynamic. Our answer to that is: treat the vines as you would treat yourself: eating well, exercising regularly, etc., minimizes the risk of catching some crippling disease. However, science should be used when one faces a critical illness. We apply the same reasoning in the vineyard: regular ploughing and careful monitoring of what our soil needs in terms of organic amendments, encourages healthy biological soil life (don’t you love worms?). This helps our vines strengthen their immunity to disease. Sometimes, the region’s temperamental weather (and the law) dictate the need to apply certain scientific treatments which we follow diligently and carefully.
To help you follow our working calendar, we present it to you following the seasons.
Ultimately, the weather remains the one determining factor which we do not control but rules our lives. A good dose of sense of humor and adaptability is therefore a viticulturist’s best friend!

  • Château Biac-Winter
  • Winter

    The working cycle starts in winter: after harvest, once the sap has gone down back into the roots, the leaves fall and pruning can start. It is a long meticulous process which will last all winter. Each varietal requires a careful approach to ensure proper growth for the next vintage.
    One last deep ploughing and covering of the vine roots with soil for winter protection takes place.

  • Château Biac-Spring
  • Spring

    The pruned vine shoots are collected in bunches or crushed into the soil (some are kept for summer barbecues!). The stems are tied to a wire and the base of the vine is secured to the wooden post. It is then cleared from its winter covering and desuckering can begin. Grass mowing and ploughing take place when needed and support wires are raised for the first time to ensure vertical growth of the vines.

  • Château Biac-Summer
  • Summer

    Further desuckering and lifting of the support wires take place during the month of June quickly followed early July by deleafing on the East side of the vines to allow the summer sun to ripen our grapes. Green harvesting (or crop thinning) will also take place shortly after. Late August, deleafing on the West side of the vines will be carried out to help the ripening process. As we get close to autumnal rains, we also want as much airflow to go through our grapes to protect them from possible rot; sometimes, depending on the length of time it takes for the “veraison” to happen, a second crop thinning is necessary to ensure homogenous maturity come harvest time. Throughout the summer, capping of the leaf canopy, grass mowing and ploughing continues at regular intervals.

  • Château Biac-Autumn
  • Autumn

    Harvest time… At last!
    During the weeks prior to harvesting, one can feel a real buzz in the Bordeaux region.
    Everyone is watching the weather, washing the vats, cleaning the sorting tables, the harvesting baskets, preparing harvest menus, and holding their breaths: for until the last grape is collected, sorted and eased into the vat, will we be weary of Oceanic capricious weather fronts and how quickly they can destroy one year’s hard labor!

Harvest

This is the time of the year when everything and everyone come together. The time we have all worked for, with different challenges every year in Bordeaux due to the capricious Atlantic weather fronts… It is also the time of joyful lunches and dinners with our dedicated team! Should you be visiting the area during that time, please join us!

Château Biac-Sorting at the vine…

Sorting at the vine…

The green harvesting in the summer has ensured that only the best bunches have remained and have benefited fully from the rich nutrients our soil provides. However, when cutting the bunches, our pickers make sure they are all healthy prior to placing them in small baskets. Any undesired bits are cut off and discarded.

Château Biac-From the vineyard to the winery

From the vineyard to the winery

The baskets holding no more than 9 kilos of grapes are quickly transported to the winery. A clever system, as shown in the photo, allows the baskets to sit on top of each other without crushing the grapes in the ones below.

Château Biac-Sorting (again) at the winery

Sorting (again) at the winery

The baskets are trucked at quick, regular intervals to the winery, then carefully emptied one by one onto a vibrating table where members of the home team will check the bunches of grapes once more before they go into the destemming and sorting machine. Finally, the selected berries travel along a conveyor belt where 12 of our most trusted team members make sure that nothing but the best go through to the crusher.
Needless to say that when you spend all this time working together, many secrets are revealed over the table… But the grapes take them to the vats to be drowned in lush, aromatic juice!

Château Biac-Into the vat

Into the vat

The selected grapes will finish their journey by flowing gently (by gravity) into an appropriately sized vat. Another chapter begins…

Château Biac-Noble rot (“Botrytis Cinerara”)

Noble rot (“Botrytis Cinerara”)

Who ever dreamt that a rotten grape complete with hairy fuzz and ugly wrinkles would give birth to the wine of the Gods: liquid gold!
There are many stories of how this came to be, but none has the one claim of veracity!
In a nutshell: the autumnal fog travelling up our hill from the Garonne River gives birth to a fungus: “Botrytis Cinerara” which attacks the grapes and pierces their skin. They shrivel and a layer of hairy fuzz coats them. Then the autumnal sunshine (we hope) comes to the rescue by drying out the rot and the water (by evaporation), thereby concentrating their sugar level. Unexpected aromas of apricot, orange marmalade, white peaches, and pears develop! These are the grapes we will pick. This particular bunch shows several stages of “noble rot” from ready to pick (dark and shriveled) to waiting to rot! (golden)
It is one of the specific characters of Château Biac, that we can produce both sweet wines and red wines side by side: another amazing feat of this exceptional “terroir”...

Château Biac-Which rotten grapes?

Which rotten grapes?

We pick mostly one grape at a time avoiding to injure the remaining ones. Sometimes, lucky pickers find whole bunches as above! However, sour rot or white rot can also develop. These give vinegar like aromas to the grapes and are to be avoided at all cost. Our pickers are chosen for their ability to recognize the good rot from the bad ones...when in doubt, we taste!

Château Biac-Journey to the winery...

Journey to the winery...

The sweet wine grapes are brought to the winery in their individual baskets. We check them once more before they are carefully placed in a horizontal hydraulic press, programmed to gently extract the juice over several hours.

Château Biac-... And to the barrel

... And to the barrel

The juice will then spend some time in a vat at a very low temperature before being transferred into new French oak barrels to begin its alcoholic fermentation.
A new vintage is in the making…

Château Biac-The winery: where it all happens

The winery: where it all happens

When we arrived in 2006, the winery had been seriously neglected and was in urgent need of modernization. To produce wines to match our expectations and that of our consultants, it had to be completely rethought. Today the ancient stone walls uncovered during the restoration house the best technology we felt adequate to our team’s requirements, marrying tradition and modernism in pursuit of excellence. Most importantly, a wide range of small thermo regulated stainless vats was selected to hold independently the harvest of each plot or sub plot of the varietals planted. This allows for very precise fine tuning when the time comes to blend our wines.

Château Biac-

Delicious ripened grapes carefully handpicked and sorted, fall by gravity into the vats.

Château Biac-

In the dedicated thermo regulated vat, the grapes get to work and convert their sugar into alcohol (alcoholic fermentation). Pumping over (“remontage”) is applied following Patrick Léon’s careful attention and directions. Tannins are softly extracted from the pips and color from the skins. Once this first fermentation is done, the wine (“vin de goutte”) is transferred to the barrels.

Château Biac-

The remaining pulp, pips and skins are then pressed and their juice (“vin de presse”) is set aside in separate barrels. What happens to the “PPS” (pulp, pips and skins)? It is sent to the local distillery! As required by French law!

Château Biac-

HO2CCH2CHOHCO2H to C3H6O3: malo-lactic fermentation! Don’t ask! But thanks to this formula, the wine loses its roughness and becomes more palatable. About 40% of our wine will undergo this fermentation in barrels, the rest in the vats. We use French oak barrels. 40% of which are renewed every year. The barrels come from a selection of French barrel makers. Each year, this selection is reappraised. During the year, we will hold regular in house tastings with Patrick Léon and our team to monitor the evolution of our wines in the different barrels.

Château Biac-

The wine ages approximately 14 to 16 months in the barrels. We try to make sure that the oak does not overpower the fruit, instead, it should enhance the aromas and help the tannins… Apparently, we are not the only ones tasting our wines… As it evolves during its ageing time in the barrels, we lose about 10% of the initial volume… Commonly called “the angel share”. Perhaps you can catch a glimpse of them at night…

Château Biac-

Bottling takes place inside the winery with the help of a small and very meticulous bottling company. Various bottles sizes are filled with Biac wine. The bottles are then laid down in our bottle stocking building to rest from the process. They will be released to the market 6 months later… Another journey which began almost two years before in the vineyard, can start!

Château Biac-

Château Biac has this amazing particularity of being able to produce both red and white sweet wines on a very small “terroir”.

Château Biac-

Unlike for the red winemaking process, the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are pressed straightaway after picking, but not before they have been checked once more for their ability to be properly “rotten”! One has to avoid “bad rot”. It can be white or reddish releasing awful sour smells! The grapes are pressed in a hydraulic horizontal press (unlike this wooden traditional one!). The pressing time is carefully monitored so as not to shock the grapes, rather to extract the juice gently over several hours.

Château Biac-

The juice is then placed into a vat, where overnight, it is maintained at low temperature which precipitates the remaining sediments (or “bourbes”) to the bottom.

Château Biac-

The next day, a delicate operation takes place: the clear juice above the sediments must be carefully extracted to be placed in new French oak barrels where it will start its alcoholic fermentation.

Château Biac-

Our sweet wine will gently develop its aromas and age over a period of 14 to 16 months before being bottled. As with the red wine, we may lose up to 10% of the initial volume of wine during that time, a phenomenon often referred to as the" angel share"... After all, they should be allowed to taste the delicious aromas in exchange for watching over the barrels!

Château Biac-

“Secret de Château Biac” is a tribute to the unique situation of the vineyard. Very few properties in the Bordeaux region have the ability to make both red and sweet wines side by side on 9 hectares only! And so, when the time is right, it is finally bottled alongside its red brother…