A Visit to Yannick Amirault, 2016

Clambering down from the front seat of Benoît Amirault’s van, I immediately drank in the superb panorama before my eyes. We had only taken a three-minute drive, but in that very short space of time we had left behind the Amirault cellars, which sit as an island in a sea of lush-green vines close to the town of Bourgueil, and ascended the slopes to the north. Here, having stopped just short of the tree line, we could look out upon that sea, and appreciate its broad expanse; it stretched both east and west, a broad green strip running as far as the eye could see, its exact extent only obscured by the vines and trees to my sides. To the south the land seemed to run on much further, all the way to the distant horizon. It was not all vines in this direction though; beyond their leafy tops lay the rooftops of Bourgueil, and further still the riverside bocage, the pasture and woodland that marked very loosely the course of the Loire. Only the wispy plumes of condensed steam rising from the cooling chimneys at La Centrale Nucléaire de Chinon, smudged across the sky, did their best to spoil the view.

Yannick Amirault

In this one moment my personal understanding of the Bourgueil and St Nicolas de Bourgueil appellations was reaffirmed. In all honesty, I have never tasted anything to distinguish between the wines of these two appellations, which are differentiated purely by local political geography, the dividing line that runs between the two neighbouring vineyards being nothing more than the communal boundary between the two towns. No, what really matters is the view I had here, not looking along the slope, but down it. At this high point the ground underfoot is dominated by the limestone that is the basis for the plateau, while lower down clay and gravel become more significant, and in some areas there is sandy, more obviously alluvial soils. This is what really matters, the clay and limestone giving rise to more serious wines than the gravel and sand. No wonder the parcel where we stood, Le Grand Clos, is one of the most coveted in the entire appellation.

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