St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, which is located to the northwest of its namesake Bourgueil appellation, is an important region for red wine production in the Touraine region of the Loire. Despite the name, St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil's wines are closer to Chinon than Bourgueil in style, tending to take on earthy yet elegant characteristics. St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil is named after the commune in the Indre-et-Loire where most of the wines are produced. This is the only village where wines are produced, unlike Bourgueil, which has vineyards in seven villages.
Cabernet Franc is the main grape here; Cabernet Sauvignon can make up 10% of the blend, but no more. No white wines are allowed, but the occasional rosé, made from the same grapes, can be pleasant. St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil is one of those underrated French wine appellations that can provide complex, nicely fruity wines for everyday prices.
Bourgueil and St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil became AOCs on the exact same day of the exact same year, July 31, 1937. St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil doesn't have quite as exciting a history as does the Chinon region, but winemaking is nonetheless firmly established in the town's traditions.
Climate and Viticulture
St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil is located to the northwest of Bourgueil, on the same Loire River that influences so many great wines of the region. Both the general climate and the soil are extremely similar to Bourgueil. The differences in the wines can only be explained by different traditions among producers. In Bourgueil, winemakers cultivate the most masculine, aggressive side of Cabernet Franc, but in St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, producers use the sandy soils to bring out the fruity, elegant aspects of the grape. This is good for both appellations, as they are not redundant.
- Cabernet Franc: Called Cabernet Breton here or just Breton for short, Cabernet Franc supersedes its typical blending-grape status to make excellent reds here. Franc is required to make up at least 90% of these wines, and many of them are varietal. The typical St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil has quintessentially Cab Franc notions of reddish berry and currant fruit, cherry, and subtle florality. Oak barrel aging is used to ensure that the wines gain complexity with age. Often, an earthy, chocolaty component emerges. The wines can age for about 25 years.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon is used in up to 10% proportion in St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil's red wines, and sometimes in the few rosés made here. But most producers prefer to make a pure varietal expression of Cabernet Franc.
Like most of the Loire red wine appellations, the St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil appellation is very reliable. We feature three producers.
- Yannick Amirault: Amirault makes top wines in Bourgueil too. In St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, his La Mine is impressively earthy, with rich but ripe chocolate and dark cherry flavors. But the Les Malgagnes is even more deep and rounded.
- Fréderic Mabileau: Mabileau's cuvée Les Rouilleres shows fresh red cherry fruit and herb flavors, but it has an additional complexity that calls for aging. The Eclipse No. 8, while not expensive, is the higher-level cuvée, and it is extremely pure and smooth, with light but complex flavors of cherry and spice as well as strong florality.
- Joel Taluau: Taluau is probably the most available St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil producer in the United States, with their basic appellation wine always a good bet at approximately $15. The Vieilles Vignes is better, with complex, dense but not overbearing cherry fruit and chocolate aromas. The "l'Expresion" cuvée is also remarkable.
St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil has no subregions, but make sure to see the page for its sister appellation, neighboring Bourgueil.