The humble craftsman
Yannick Amirault has been quietly making some of the best wines in Bourgueil since he took over the then tiny estate in 1977, preferring to let the wines speak for themselves. He has made incremental adjustments over the last 35 years: decreasing yields, cutting out fertilisers, rejecting the use of herbicides, using only indigenous yeasts, eschewing filtration, and so on. Thus, despite increasing the amount of land he works tenfold, the wines have improved every single vintage, moving ever closer towards a Platonic interpretation of his vineyards.
Yannick remains genuinely humble; when we spoke about other producers in the area, he was quick to praise their work and downplay his role as a standardbearer for the commune. He works with land in both Bourgueil and St.-Nicolas de Bourgueil, covering a variety of different soils, from the alluvial, gravelly plains near the river, up through the terraces (sand and chalk) to the claty and chalk coteaux. The grapes ripen at different speeds and in different ways; there’s often brighter, sweeter-tasting fruit from the gravelly river banks (which retain heat well throughout the night in summer), but more intensity and concentration from grapes grown on the slopes (from the greater exposure to sunlight).
These differences of terroir come through forcefully in all of Yannick’s wines, even the rosé. Spending up to a year in oak barrels most vintages, it is structured, fruity and a wine for the dinner table. In St.-Nicolas de Bourgueil, La Source is the early drinker, to be quaffed from a carafe, while La Mine works nicely with charcuterie. Les Malgagnes is always the most extracted of the three, owing to the long maceration time. In Bourgueil, we love La Coudraye for being an inimitable mix of freshness and minerality (from the silica on the slopes), but Les Quartiers is perhaps his most interesting year in, year out. It’s classic clay-chalk grown Cabernet Franc, recalling the best slopes of Chinon but with an undertow of masculinity. Both Le Grand Clos and La Petite Cave require time to come together.
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