Domaine du Bel-Air

25 August 2022

If you ask Loire Valley insiders which domaine has the potential to rival Clos Rougeard’s benchmark Cabernet Francs for quality and ageing potential, you’ll be knowingly pointed – as we were by star sommelier Marco Pelletier – towards Domaine du Bel-Air.

Since combining his family’s holdings in Benais with the historic vineyards around Château de Benais in 2005, Pierre Gauthier has transformed Bel-Air into a top-tier estate. Farming 18ha in Bourgueil’s most exceptional lieux dits, Pierre’s production is surprisingly small, a result of low-yielding old vines and his quality-focused organic approach.

‘Jour de Soif’ is soft and easy-drinking, its ripe black fruit streaked with herb and spice notes – far more than a simple vin de soif. ‘Les Vingt Lieux Dits’ is sourced from 20 sites of 40-year-old vines and combines smoky red fruit with refreshing acidity and fine, crunchy tannins. Layered and complex, single-vineyard ‘Les Marsaules’ is richly concentrated with plum and damson, savoury black olive, and a smoky minerality.

Although Loire Valley Cabernet Franc enjoys longstanding popularity with sommeliers in Paris, where the palaces of gastronomy feature verticals of Bel Air’s wines on their lists, Claret-loving British winos have been much slower on the uptake. As a result, it is rare to see these unsung gems for sale in the UK, so we jumped at the chance to offer this one-off parcel from a range of stellar vintages.

Bourgueil ‘Jour de Soif’ 2019 (£18) Sold out
From 20-year-old vines on mid-slope, gravel-clay parcels. Brimming with dense, ripe fruit streaked with herbs and sweet spices. Vibrant and delicious. Excellent value. Drink to 2025+.

Bourgueil ‘Les Vingt Lieux Dits’ 2014/2015 (£22/24) Sold out
From 20 plots of 40-year-old vines on south-facing slopes. Elevage in demi-muids for 12 months. The 2014 shows Cabernet Franc’s characteristic poise and lifted freshness, while the 2015 is richer and rounder with a warm, spicy character. Drink to 10+ years from vintage.

Bourgueil ‘Les Marsaules’ 2012/2014/2016/2018 (£38/£36/£32/£30) Sold out
From 60-year-old vines. Elevage in barrel for 30 months. Wild brambly fruit is tinged with peppery herbs and smoky complexity in 2012, while the 2014 emphasises its meatiness and minerality. The 2016 combines its seductive ripe quality with fresh acidity, and the 2017 offers a cooler, lifted line. Drink 15+ years from vintage.

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