Wine tasting in Bourgueil : the ultimate Cab Franc experience

A guide for discovering the wine region that produces exquisite 100% 'cab franc' red wines : Bourgueil.

Loire Valley vineyards
Loire Valley vineyards

Bourgueil. An evocative name. The perfect place for a wine tasting getaway in the heart of the Loire Valley region in France.

Hop on the speed train from Paris … you will be wine tasting in Bourgueil a couple of hours later!

The best idea is probably to stay in the city of Tours overnight (the capital city of the Loire Valley), and visit the nearby vineyards of Vouvray or Chinon the day after.

All three appellations are within a 45 minute drive from the city centre of Tours.

Ready for your (perfect) wine tasting in Bourgueil, in the Loire Valley wine region?

Follow the guide.

Wine tasting in Bourgueil : six villages, one appellation, dozens of wineries worth visiting!

Bourgueil is one of the three major red wine appellations of the Loire valley. The other two are St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Chinon. The Bourgueil AOC (the French acronym for “Appellation”) takes its name from the eponymous village of Indre-et-Loire, where most of the wine is produced.

Over twenty square kilometers, the Bourgueil appellation extends from plain to hillsides, from the banks of the river Loire.

A country of vineyards.

The five other villages authorized for producing the AOC (Benais, Chouzé-sur-Loire, La Chapelle-sur-Loire, Restigné and St-Patrice) bring the total area of ​​the vines to almost 14 sq. kms.

Around 9 million bottles are produced each year in the appellation. Among these, a small part in rosé wines. But the vast majority of Bourgueil wines are reds.

Wine tasting in Bourgueil - Saint-Martin Church in Restigné @Spencer Means
Wine tasting in Bourgueil - Saint-Martin Church in Restigné @Spencer Means

Cab Franc Bourgueil wines : to chill or not to chill, that is the question

Bourgueil wines : cheap and easy to drink ? Less apt for aging and less complex than their Chinon cousins?

That was yesterday.

Today many wine lovers prefer Bourgueil wines for their creamy thickness, their deep and complex flavors and their distinctive notes of black fruit.

Likewise, the days of systematically serving these wines cooled from the refrigerator are somewhat over (except maybe for the cheaper versions you may be served in a typical Parisian brasserie).

Great Bourgueil wines no longer need to be put down with a little cooling. Because Cab Franc (Cabernet Franc, in short) is a grape variety that also has legs.

Maybe less muscular than his cabernet sauvignon cousin, but yes, it still has legs.

Jacky Blot - Le Haut de la Butte - Bourgueil - label
Domaine de la Butte produces great Bourgueil wines ... for which the winemaker would kill you if you served them cool. Be warned.

The local French AOC regulations allow 10% Cabernet Sauvignon to be blended in Bourgueil wines. Obviously with the aim of making them thicker and more complex.

Even if most producers prefer to keep their “Cab Franc” pure. Today, 100% Cabernet Franc Bourgueil wines are increasingly rich, vibrant and long at finish.

They offer smoky scents, rich berries and fine structures.

Formerly low in alcohol, today’s Bourgueil selections can reach up to 13.5% alcohol by volume, which gives Bourgueil wines of deeper color, concentration and complexity.

A succession of very fine vintages (2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018) has only confirmed the idea that the red wines of the central Loire area deserve to be taken seriously.

Wine tasting in Bourgueil - The vineyard near the Domaine de la Chevalerie @Malcolm Boyd
Wine tasting in Bourgueil - The vineyard near the Domaine de la Chevalerie @Malcolm Boyd

Bourgueil's terroir : the river, a plain, a slope

The geology of Bourgueil is “a plain, a slope”. And the two sides of this appellation have a major influence on the wines produced there.

The vineyards closer to the river Loire (the plain) give sweeter and lighter wines, with the usual flavors of red fruits typical of Cabernet Franc.

Because near water, the soils are softer and more sandy, which produce sweet and fruity wines.

Higher up on the hills above the banks (the slope), the soils are made of limestone which produce much more structured and powerful wines, with more intense and darker flavors.

Wine tasting in Bourgueil - "Maison des Vins" Jean Carmet
In the center of the village of Bourgueil, go taste wines at the “Maison des Vins”

Where to start your wine tasting in Bourgueil ?

Well, why not start with the “Maison des vins de Bourgueil”?

Located in the heart of the town of Bourgueil, it is located in the former family home of Jean Carmet, a famous French actor (it was actually the home of his grandparents).

An easy way to get familiar with the history of the Bourgueil vineyard, taste a (short) selection of red and rosé wines from the appellation.

Bougueil also produces small quantities of rosé wines. A perfect summer special.
Bourgueil wines are also rosé wines, fruity, dry, delightful

Did you say rosé wines?

Yes I did.

Rosé wines are more rare in the area, only 4% of the total Bourgueil production.

But they are still interesting enough to give them a try : sweet, dry and aromatic. Very different from their Provence counterparts.

But that is the point. Taste the difference. Enjoy.

After this stop in the village (cute by the way), you can then move on to stage 2 : discover the terroir around Bourgueil.

The Bourgueil vineyard of course, but also the small charming villages of the appellation : Benais and Restigné for example.

How about preparing your own wine tasting tour in Bourgueil?

What’s next?

  1. First option : it would be a shame to come to Bourgueil without also going to explore the neighboring Chinon vineyards
  2. Second option : Go to the cellar and fetch a bottle of a super powered cab franc Bourgueil (actually, this is not an option. Do it)!

If you want to prepare a great wine tasting in Bourgueil, we have great tools to help you prepare it and make your getaway a perfect experience.

Below, the Bourgueil region wine map and a list of Bourgueil wineries worth visiting.

Enjoy your wine tasting in Bourgueil, France!

Loire Valley winery guide

Bourgueil wineries map

If you want to prepare a perfect wine tasting in Bourgueil, we have all the tools for you … starting with the interactive map of wineries in Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-De-Bourgueil.


(Really) worth reading

Domaine de la Chevalerie (the best producer in Bourgueil), a bold statement, but one I like. Read more on Wines, Tasted

Speaking Francly: the polarizing grape sparks debate : Francly, I like the pun. Read about the debate surrounding cab franc wines, "only good enough for sangria" on Dr Vino's blog

Domaine Catherine & Pierre Breton – an Intrepid Wine Tasting, where the Intrepid Wino shares tasting notes of 2 of the most respected winemakers in Bourgueil