It is just gone midday in the Café de la Promenade, on the southern outskirts of Bourgueil, and proprietors Ludovic and Sophie Ragot are busying themselves for the lunchtime rush. In the kitchen, Sophie eyes a huge vat of pot au feu which is simmering away, while Ludovic busies himself with a corkscrew and bottle. There are already a few customers in place, and my arrival undoubtedly increases their workload a little. Yet they remain unfazed, smiling and warm, and not just because every sensible restaurateur is pleased so see another customer walk through the door. No, there is something else here, an eternal, easy-going state of joie de vivre that fills the room with a warm and welcoming ambiance. Sophie and Ludovic seem to have found themselves a large slice of happiness here.
With lunch we need wine, and the wine list here is unlike any other I have seen. In fact, there is no wine list. Instead, beyond a rather tired old door in the corner of the room lies a dusty cubby-hole, the walls lined with wine bins. This is where you choose your wine for lunch; and as we are not too far from Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, the 2012 L’Hurluberlu from Sébastien David is surely a good choice. Bottled young, full of exuberant yet crunchy fruit, the clear glass of the bottle declaring quite plainly the ‘drink me’ style, it seems like the perfect wine for a warming, slightly rustic, belly-filling Bourgueil-lunch. Indeed it was; it was a wine that seemed to mirror the joie de vivre of the proprietors; unfussy, joyful and brimming with dark fruit skins, and yet clean, bright, defined and lifted by the green of the vintage. It was easy drinking, but in a difficult year I am quite certain it was not easy to make. It might only have been a vin de soif but it was so much better than many wines that might also qualify for that description, and it was enough to remind me that Sébastien David (pictured above) is a name worth knowing about when it comes to the red wines of the Loire Valley.