Bourgueil – Introduction
We first became addicted to the wines from Bourgueil when we shared a bottle over a pleasant lunch in Paris. When we planned our first Loire excursion we looked for an organic producer from this area and Stéphane Guion seemed to fit the bill perfectly having been one of the first to adopt organic practices in this area. The estate has been certified organic since 1965!
The Bourgueil appellation area where Stéphane Guion has his vineyards is centered on the village of the same name which lies a short distance to the west of Tours. It is a red wine only appellation where Cabernet Franc is king with Cabernet Sauvignon allowed to play a supporting role (rosé wines can also be made from these grapes as well).
Stéphane Guion only produces two main cuvées of red wine from his aged vines which range from 35 to 80 years old. He also produces a delicious rose wine and a sparkling wine.
But the main thing about the Bourgueil area is that it lies on south facing slopes that are exposed to the sun, so that means that the notoriously difficult Cabernet Franc grape ripens really well here.
Stéphane’s house (in the picture on the left) and winery (the building just on the right of the photo) are in the quiet, sleepy village of Benais which lies just a few kilometres from Bourgueil. Here nearly every house is made from Turonian chalk which has been quarried from a nearby hill (where, incidentally) Stéphane’s best vineyard is situated.
The name of the chalk is derived from the geological age that it was created in, namely the Turonian epoch of the Cretaceous period. The Cretaceous period occured from 145.5 million years ago to 65.5 million years ago. The Turonian epoch is a subset of that period, namely 93.5 to 89.3 million years ago. Chalk from that period is the most common rock type on nthe lower slopes. As you walk up the gentle hills you reach deposits that were laid down later in the Senonian epoch which extended from 89.3 million years ago to 65.5 million years ago.
The stones carved out of the hillside were painstakingly removed to form long passages like mine addits. They were then transported to Benais and the village was built on the back of these labours.
When we visit Stéphane Guion’s house we are acutely aware that it sits atop of his ancient cellar where some of the most amazing treasures are stored. We often descends into the cellar and brings up a 20 or 30 year old bottle of his wine that is always perfectly preserved and ready to drink. Don’t let anybody tell you that natural wines don’t last!
You can walk into these “caves” for a long distance and it is here that Stéphane and other winemakers store their wine while it is maturing as the temperature is perfect for maturing wine with no perceptible change in temperature even at the heights of summer.Getting into the caves is an interesting experience. You enter the long tunnel from the entrance carved into the hill shown above.
Far inside this man-made cave there is a strongly locked iron gate and to the left you can see the traditional miners “board” where there are hooks numbered 1 to 12. The vigneron who is entering their cave puts a marker on the hook that represents their cave to indicate that they are inside. When they leave they replace the marker. This way no-one inadvertently gets locked in or in an emergency rescuers can tell immediately in which cave to look.
Stéphane Guion is a quiet, thoughtful man who takes his winemaking very seriously and we think that results speak for themselves.His wines are natural because the vines are tended organically (and have been since 1965), he only uses the natural yeasts on the fruit to ferment the wines and there are no additives with the exception of very low amounts of sulphur added during bottling to preserve the wine on its long journey out here.
He has certification from Ecocert for his organic vineyard as shown on the labels. He has also recently (2021) achieved Demeter Biodynamic certification as well!
And, even though these wines are sold at a very good price, they will last for many years if you want to tuck a few away. We have tried examples of Stephane’s wines that are over 25 years old and they are still fresh, vibrant and exciting to drink.
You can find descriptions of Stephane’s wines here.