Borgueil: The Unpronounceable, Unforgettable King of Cabernet Franc

When I think of wine that is interesting, unique, obscure, high-value, and small-production, I think of Borgueil – the small wine region in France’s Loire Valley that produces almost exclusively Cabernet Franc.

“Huh?” some of you say. Borgueil? What on earth is that? And how on earth do you pronounce it? bor-GOO-ee-uhl? BOR-gweel? bor-GWEYE-uhl?

It is perhaps unsurprising that one of the hardest wine regions for non-French speakers (and wannabe French speakers like me) to pronounce is one of the better-kept secrets in the wine world. One can hardly fault even the most adventurous American diners for steering clear from the inevitable embarrassment of an attempt at “We’ll have a bottle of the ’02 BOR-gyou-ee-EYE-uhl.” The matter is only complicated when Borgueil is merely a part of the name on the bottle, as with the region’s neighbor St-Nicolas-de-Borgueil.

Of course, most of us have rarely had the opportunity to mangle the pronunciation of Borgueil in a public setting, as these wines rarely show up at wine shops or on wine lists. By way of example, if any wine list might be expected to include a Borgueil, it would be that of the legendary Chez Panisse, which sources a number of its wines from Berkeley importer Kermit Lynch (one of the more reliable sources for Borgueil in the Bay Area). But Chez Panisse (based on its wine list published online as of the date of this article) carries exactly zero Borgueil or St-Nicolas-de-Borgueil. It does, however, carry several of Borgueil’s (much easier to pronounce) Loire neighbors, such as Saumur, Chinon, and Vouvray.

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For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.