Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, both renowned appellations in the Loire Valley, are celebrated for their expressive red wines made predominantly from the Cabernet Franc grape variety. The region's unique terroir, which includes diverse soil types and a temperate climate, contributes to the distinct character and style of these wines. Here, we will explore the key factors that influence the wine style, quality, and price of Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Cabernet Franc and briefly touch upon the similarities with wines from the neighboring appellations of Chinon and Saumur-Champigny.
Climate and Weather:
Both Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil have a temperate, continental climate with a strong Atlantic influence. The region experiences cool winters, warm summers, and moderate rainfall, which contributes to the balanced ripening of Cabernet Franc grapes. The climate allows the grape to retain its acidity and develop vibrant fruit flavors while avoiding excessive ripeness.
Soils, Slope, and Aspect:
The diverse soils of Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil can be broadly categorized into two main types that directly impact wine quality:
1. Gravel and sandy alluvial soils on the riverbanks and plains – These soils promote good drainage and offer moderate fertility, leading to wines with lighter body, delicate fruit flavors, and softer tannins. Wines from these soils are often approachable earlier and are typically consumed young.
2. Tuffeau limestone and clay-based soils on slopes and plateaus – The limestone-rich soils on the slopes provide excellent drainage and a unique mineral character to the wines. Wines produced from these soils exhibit greater structure, complexity, and age-worthiness.
Grape Variety and Key Characteristics:
Cabernet Franc is the dominant grape variety in both Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, known for its thin skins, early budding, and mid-to-late ripening. The grape typically yields medium-bodied wines with moderate tannins, vibrant red fruit flavors, and a characteristic herbal or green bell pepper note. The region's climate and terroir greatly influence the expression of Cabernet Franc, allowing for a range of styles from fresh and fruity to more structured and age-worthy. In both appellations, up to 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon is allowed in the blend.
In both Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, viticulture practices such as canopy management, green harvesting, and careful yield control are essential to ensure the optimal ripening of Cabernet Franc. These practices help to manage the grape's natural vigor and to balance fruit concentration with acidity and tannin structure.
Vinification Practices and AOC Requirements:
Winemakers in Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil generally use temperature-controlled fermentation to preserve fruit character and employ gentle extraction techniques to manage tannins. The wines are often aged in a combination of stainless steel, cement, or oak vessels, depending on the desired style and complexity. In both appellations, regulations require a minimum alcohol level of 10.5% for red wines.
Similar Wines in Chinon and Saumur-Champigny:
Cabernet Franc-based wines from the neighboring appellations of Chinon and Saumur-Champigny share some similarities with those from Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. All exhibit bright fruit flavors, moderate tannins, and a characteristic herbal note. However, Chinon wines tend to exhibit a slightly more pronounced mineral character due to the different soil compositions found in the Chinon region, while Saint-Nicolas-de-Bour
Tasting Note: Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Vignoble de la Jarnoterie
The Vignoble de la Jarnoterie St. Nicolas exhibits a medium ruby color with youthful purple hues, showing good concentration and a clear, bright appearance.
On the nose, this wine is pronounced, displaying primary aromas of ripe red cherries, raspberries, and blackcurrants, alongside secondary characteristics of green bell pepper, fresh herbs, and a subtle hint of earthiness. The tertiary notes reveal a touch of cedar and sweet spice, likely from oak aging.
On the palate, this wine is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body, and medium, well-integrated tannins. The wine has medium alcohol The flavors are consistent with the nose, showcasing ripe red and black fruit, green bell pepper, and herbaceous notes, complemented by an underlying minerality and a touch of oak-derived sweet spice.
The wine has a medium-plus finish, with the vibrant fruit flavors and refreshing acidity lingering on the palate.
Overall, this Vignoble de la Jarnoterie is a very good example of Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. The pronounced intensity on the nose and palate express clear and precise aromas and flavors that spring from the glass. There is a nice balance between its just ripe fruit, well-integrated tannins, and refreshing acidity. The wine is lighter in style and typical of a wine of this region expressing high quality fruit at controlled yields for an expression of freshness and quality. The complexity, while not overly complex, offers nice green notes and subtle oak flavors that elevate this wine. The flavors remain clear and precise but the finish falls away just short of long, keeping this wine from a higher quality rating.