When I first set foot in the village of St Nicolas de Bourgueil (more than a year or two ago now) there were two features I immediately took note of. The first was the over-sized wine bottle which seemed to take centre stage in the village, in the car park in front of the church. While this may not be the largest of France’s roadside wine bottles (it is nothing compared to that which sits opposite Château Gloria in St Julien on the Médoc) it is the only one I have seen that has been fashioned into a fountain, water gurgling from its neck 24 hours a day.
After the magic of the eternally-pouring bottle (if only real wine bottles could do that) the second thing I noticed were the signs. On the gable ends of buildings, outside cafés, next to the road, everywhere I looked there were metal hoardings advertising the location of many of the local vignerons. Some looked as though they had been hanging there since the 1940s, or longer, and it is only honest to say a few had seen better days. Every vigneron worth his or her salt in St Nicolas de Bourgueil had a “cave ouverte à 350 m” sign somewhere. There was Lysiane, Guy and Wilfred Mabileau. There was Anne and Claude Mabileau. There was Laurent Mabileau. There was Vincent and Jacques Mabileau. Every type of Mabileau you care to name, in fact. And, of course, there was a Frédéric Mabileau.
Sadly, during the years that have passed since that first visit, many of these signs have disappeared. Some were culled when the centre of the village received a makeover, with a newly-laid road, pavements, a new car park, new street lighting and son on. St Nicolas de Bourgueil scrubbed up well, but in the process it did lose some of the ancient, tired, rural charm it once possessed. Sign or no sign, however, Frédéric Mabileau (pictured above), one of the village’s most noteworthy vignerons, soldiered on, and before long Frédéric enjoyed a reputation as one of the leading names of the appellation.
Tragically, Frédéric’s life was cut short late in 2020, when in an accident sadly reminiscent of the passing of Didier Dagueneau, the ultra-lite aircraft he was piloting crashed. His passing left his family bereft, but it also left them with a domaine to run. This profile catalogues the story of this domaine, from its origins through to the post-Frédéric era.