In our previous post on the Bourgueil vineyard we told a story about “slopes” and “plains”. To understand Bourgueil wines one needs to understand the very specific topography of the area. What the French summarize in the concept of terroir. Bourgueil red wines are the reflection of the soil in which the vines grow. Having to choose (only) four wineries in Bourgueil is always a heart breaker. Having to leave so many aside … But let’s be realistic : how many cellars can one visit during a one or two-day stay?
My guess would be … four. I’ve seen some crazy wine addicts visiting the whole four in just one afternoon. That, of course, is always possible. All the more that we have selected these wineries in Bourgueil within a 3 mile radius.
So let’s start the wine tour.
Wine stop #1 : Domaine Breton. Named after the eponymous grape variety!
Catherine and Pierre Breton have this joyfully evocative last name : “Breton”. In the Bourgueil region “Cabernet Franc” is also called “Cabernet Breton”, “Petit Breton”, or more simply “Breton”.
The Breton winery only produces natural wines. 100% of the vineyard is cultivated according to biodynamic principles.
The wine range is large and varied. At the lower price range end you will find a light and fragrant vintage called “Trinch”, produced from the gravelly soils of the plain. But the finest (more expensive) wines come from the hillside : “Le Grand Mont” (literally : “The high hill”) and “Les Perrières” originate from one of the most beautiful areas of the Bourgueil vineyard. The latter cuvée, rich in tannins in its youth, develops all its complexity over the years to become an extraordinary ripe and spicy wine.
Wine stop #2 : Domaine de La Butte. At the top of the hill.
Domaine de la Butte is owned by the (not only) locally famous Jacky Blot who first revealed his talent in Montlouis : he is also the owner of the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups
which produces some of the most splendid white wines in the Vouvray area, just 40 miles away.
In his Bourgueil estate, Jacky Blot gave a close attention to what made his vineyard so special : being on a hillside. The “slope” (la pente) produces very different wines at the top, the middle and bottom of the hill.
That is why he decided to bottle three different cuvées accordingly: “Haut de la Butte” (“Top of the Hill”), “Mi-Pente” (“Mid-slope”) and “Pied de la Butte” (“Bottom of the Hill”). The “Mi-Pente” cuvée is the most structured, while the “Pied de la Butte” seduces with its fresh sweetness, full of red fruits.
If you would like to know more about this winery, I can only suggest you read Craig Heschuk’s post about Jacky Blot and the Re-Invention of Chenin Blanc (and listen to the Wine Beat’s great podcast episodes).
Wine stop #3 : Staying at the top (of the hill), welcome to the Domaine de la Chevalerie
A little further east, but still in the heights of Benais (a fine small typical village of the appellation), welcome to the Domaine de Chevalerie, home of the illustrious Caslot family.
Here you will experience sheer passion and generosity. The wine tasting takes place in a beautiful cellar dug in the rock, as it should be in the Loire Valley.
The Domaine de la Chevalerie is one of the few estates where tasting takes you through a series of different terroirs and vintages. The tasting process is well thought out, in a logical order that leaves room to serendipity. A heavenly journey across the winery’s fine cuvées : Galichets, Bretêche, Chevalerie, Busardières, Peu Muleau,… Joy, enjoy.
The end of the journey will no doubt be the domaine’s “Vin de Garde”. If the name may seem less poetic, do not be fooled. The name is different, the wine is also different. The top of the top of … the hill, with superb concentration, structure and complexity.
Final stop: Nau Frères, simple splendid Bourgueil wines
I have always had a soft spot for the wines of these three brother-winemakers.
Because the Nau Frères estate has produced wines of impressive quality and consistency over the years.
As a reminder, the Nau Frères winery is located in Ingrandes de Touraine, not far from the banks of the river Loire, where the alluvial soils produce lighter and fresher Bourgueils, with aromas of red fruits and licorice. The “Blottières” and the “Varennes” cuvées are two simply incredible value for money wines (less than 10$ when bought directly at the winery).
The estate also offers a rather pleasant rosé, while the powerful and more complex cuvée “Brunetières Vieilles Vignes” always offers a frank, sincere and highly pleasurable tasting experience (red fruit aroma + structure + tight tannins).
“Even though the dog has four legs, it cannot take two paths at the same time.”