The face of Bordeaux is changing. For a region so steeped in wine history, the pace is perhaps slower than other regions, however the Bordeaux our parents knew is quietly beginning to share the spotlight with a group of energised and talented new blood, including Damien Bielle of Domaine Marius Bielle.
We met Damien around a table of laughter, pizzas and of course wine. This unique character was introduced to us by Olivier from Chateau Gombaude-Guillot, both young rising stars of Bordeaux who became fast friends. A passion for wine was an obvious shared connection, which has evolved into sharing a warehouse, however they also discovered a joint love of MMA fighting. Word is they’ve even fashioned a simple yet effective gym and a fighting ring in the warehouse!
Domaine Marius Bielle was founded in the 1940s by Damien’s grandfather, the domaine’s namesake, in Lalande-de-Pomerol. In this area, a grape maligned in other wine growing regions is seen as the king. Here, Merlot rules them all. There are no blends, the wines are 100% Merlot, a ‘one terroir, one cepage’ approach championed by Burgundy.
It is this approach that allows Damien to focus on making wines that highlight the nuances of this grape. Graduating as an agronomist engineer, he went onto oenology school in Bordeaux and then worked for the most prestigious Merlot and Cabernet producers in the world - Chateau Petrus (Pomerol) and Chateau Cheval Blanc (Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe), before finally deciding to return to the family estate to create his own expression in 2020.
The process starts on the famous Pomerol soils of sand and gravel, with 13 hectares of organically farmed vineyard (certified 2021). Weaved in between the oceans of surrounding vines, you’ll find the Domaine Marius Bielle ecosystem - breaking the monotony with trees, grass and flowers growing in the vineyard, freeing space to create orchards, vegetable gardens and allowing a few animals in the vines.
When vintage rolls around, the grapes are handpicked and sorted, before maceration by infusion, and a slow natural fermentation with vinification occuring in stainless steel tanks. Like a painter in his workshop, it’s a moment of focus and presence - creating a sketch of the vintage. The ‘slow but steady’ ethos continues through to aging, using concrete tanks to gently and softly raise his Merlot.
Damien grew up in contact with les “vins d’avant”, an old school style of wine in the best of ways, those wines that took the time of aging in the cellar and then in bottles before being released. This has without doubt influenced his winemaking, insisting the wines reveal themselves in time, finding their complexity along the way and without the use of sulphur, filtering or fining.
We are excited to be bringing these vibrant and contemporary wines to Australia. It’s Damien’s wish that these Bordeaux wines that are opened at tables filled with laughter and good friends, enjoyed with some quality meat on the barbecue, not to be intimidating and tasted in suits and silence. He wants his wines to bring conversation.
Having tasted his line up and a range of spectacular back vintages, we’re sure they will.