I have long maintained that the single most underrated region in the wine world is the Loire Valley. There are scores of unique wineries, growers, and grape varietals to be found here. This small area can lead us to discuss a whole myriad of wines. Today we will review a region in the heart of the Loire called Bourgueil.
The wines from this region are almost exclusively made from Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc, underrated in its own right, is a wonderful red grape full of character and vibrancy. Lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine tends to be a bright pale red wine with finesse and a touch of pepper on the nose. Along with pepper, well made wines can also include aromas of cassis, violets, tobacco, raspberry and maybe even cedar. The complexity of these wines along with well balanced acid and judicious oak make my mouth water!
Bourgueil soils contain a lot of gravel and sand along with some limestone. This combination allows the vines to have excellent drainage without the soil being too rich. The vines have to fight to survive, therefore the roots go deep and extract every ounce of love from the soil. This creates wines that are floral, fruity and complex and with age that can have a wonderful earthy element. If you like a more up front, fruity style, you can drink these young, if complex earthy and leathery notes are your thing, age the wine for 10-20 years in a cool, dark place and you will be amazed at the complexity and melding of earth and fruit in the glass. Pair reds from this area with pork tenderloin or grilled chicken. Bourgueil wines are also the ultimate burger wine!
Harder to find, but also beautiful are rose’s from this region. Only 5% of total production, these wines are fresh, vibrant yet still have the signature violet and peppery notes.
An awesome example of Bourgueil that won’t break the bank is Domaines des Ouches Bourgueil Igoranda.($20) Made by the Gambier brothers who represent the 8th generation of Gambiers making wine in Bourgueil! Over time, they have learned to master the region pulling grapes from various spots on the vineyard in order to make different styles. The Igoranda is elegant with cassis, tobacco combined with a flowery aroma of bing cherries and black raspberries. This wine is composed of fruit from the hillside. The Gambiers have noticed this plot takes longer to ripen, giving the wine more acid and complex fruit. While riskier and more expensive to produce, the results are beautiful!
Be daring and don’t ignore this unknown region. If you are a red wine fan, I think you will be surprised. While hard to find, it is worth the search!