Tasting Le Grand Clos 2010 of Loire’s wine maker of the year : Yannick Amirault

Yannick and Benoît Amirault were recenlty voted wine makers of the year in the Loire region by the French Guide Hachette. Father and son are based in Bourgueil where they make almost exclusively red wines of Cabernet Franc, both in the Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil and Bourgueil AOPs.

That made me curious to open my last bottle of Le Grand Clos 2010, a wine that I’ve had two times before, the first time in 2013 and the second time in 2016. It never made a big impression on me so I was a little surprised by the news of Guide Hachette. In 2013 I described it as a very classic Loire Cabernet Franc with cherries, a slightly green touch and a hint of coffee. The tannins were well integrated. A wine I could intellectually appreciate but that did not evoke many emotions. In 2016 I had it in a difficult phase because I remember rather rough tannins and I wondered at that point whether this wine would ever reach a good balance. Maybe I should have drunk it young on its primary fruit?

I’m glad I kind of forgot about my third bottle. Unfortunately, before I could taste it, I had to struggle with the cork that broke in two. That’s the kind of thing I would expect with a 20 year old bottle perhaps, but a 10 year old? Rather not. Anyhow, I received instant gratification when I could finally sniff the aromas. I was dumbstruck. What I smelled was the bouquet of a top Bordeaux, with really attractive and pure forest fruit, classy cedar wood and sigar box. Was this the wine that failed to impress me on two previous occasions? I’ve experienced it so often now that a wine transforms from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, sometimes even in one day’s time, and yet I cannot stop feeling amazed every time it happens. The balance of the wine had greatly improved with beautiful fruit, perfectly integrated wood and tannins that are still there but have become approachable and that provide structure and backbone. The wine evolved still in the glass and became more “Loire” than “Bordeaux” after a while with a certain frivolity in the fruit that I never could have predicted. What a joy!

On Amirault’s website this wine is described as having an “aristocratic” approach and a dense tannic structure. Its peak is predicted at 5 to 10 years of age. On the basis of this vintage I would rather say at 10 to 15 years. It’s clear that this wine still has many years ahead of itself. And, not unimportantly, this wine is still affordable (for as long as it lasts). You will find this wine under 20€ on certain French web shops. So the only thing you need to enjoy it, is patience!

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