When Yannick Amirault took control of his family estate in 1977 it comprised a patchwork of vineyards scattered across 3.4 hectares of the Bourgueil and St.Nicholas de Bourgueil appellations to the north of the Loire. A thoughtful and philosophical man, he has gradually evolved and built the domaine, which now stands at 19 hectares, 13 in Bourgueil and 6 in St.Nicholas de Bourgueil. Fertilisers have not been used here since 1983, and interplanting of the rows with grasses has removed the need for herbicides. Leaf-thinning to improve the exposure of the bunches, and a green harvest to reduce yield have resulted in his wines being amongst the ripest in this rather marginal outpost for the Cabernet Franc grape, which can easily appear green and astringent in less capable or attentive hands.
There are three categories of soil to be found on the domaine, and they run longitudinally along the slope and through both appellations. It is therefore altitude rather than commune which denotes the differences in the wines. The lightest wines come from the sandy, gravelly, more alluvial vineyards closer to the river, and include La Coudraye, La Source and La Mine. Then there are the clay mid-slope soils, which give firmer wines and one of the domaine’s best known vineyards, Le Grand Clos. At the highest level come the limestone terroirs, the more desirable sites when looking for vins de garde. These are Les Quartiers, La Petite Cave and Les Malgagnes. The entirely manual harvest is often delayed until October, with fruit selected during several passes through the vines to ensure that the grapes are picked at optimum ripeness – it is surprising how many estates use machine harvesting given the marginal ripening this far north. The musts are fermented under indigenous yeasts, and there is no filtration.