Bourgueil. An evocative name. The perfect place for a French wine tasting getaway. 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 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.
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.
Bourgueil wines : to chill or not to chill them, 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 bourgueils 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 bourgueils no longer need to be put down with a liitle cooling. Because the Cabernet Franc can also have legs. Maybe less muscular than his cabernet sauvignon cousin, but yes, it still has legs.
The 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 bourgueils are increasingly rich, vibrant and durable. They offer smoky scents, rich berries and fine structures.
Formerly low in alcohol, today’s selections can now 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.
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 water (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.
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.
Did you say rosé?
Yes I did. Rosé is rarer, 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 cousins. But that is the point. Taste the difference. Enjoy.
After this stop in the city (cute by the way), you can then move on to stage 2 : discover the terroir around Bourgueil. The vineyard of course, but also the small charming villages of the appellation: Benais and Restigné for example.
For discovering the area and preparing your wine tasting in Bourgueil : simply use the interactive map of Bourgueil winemakers below.
Bourgueil wineries guide
If you want to prepare a perfect wine tasting in Bourgueil, we have all the tools for you … starting with the interactive map of winegrowers of the Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-De-Bourgueil appellations.