Yannick Amirault, 2020 Update
Fans of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc who venture beyond Chinon’s borders inevitably come to Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. These two neighbouring appellations are located very close to Chinon, a little to the north on the right bank of the Loire, not too far from the vineyards of Chinon which of course sit overlooking the Vienne. The distinction between Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil is purely political, the dividing line between the two vineyards matching precisely the boundary between the two communes, each appellation characterised by an ascent from sandy alluvial soils, ascending through the gravelly terraces to the clay and limestone soils at the top of the slope.
Distinctions between the two appellations are therefore unhelpful and, dare I say it, false. It is much more informative to focus on the vignerons, and there are a handful of domaines here working at an extremely high level on both sides of the dividing line. I suspect committed fans of these appellations will already have their own favourites, which surely include among their number Domaine de la Butte, a domaine I have been following since Jacky Blot acquired it in 2002, the Caslot family and Domaine de la Chevalerie and the Gauthier family of Domaine du Bel Air (among others). Any who wish to claim the appellation’s crown, however, will have to deal with Yannick and Benoît Amirault first.
I met up with Benoît Amirault early in 2020 to taste through the latest and forthcoming releases, which on this occasion meant almost exclusively the 2018 vintage. It was instructive; a reminder that favourite domaines should always be revisited and reappraised, and that wines should be judged on their own merits, and not on the reputation of the vintage on the label.