The vineyards of the Loire Valley stretch from the middle of France to the Atlantic coast following the westward flow of the river. The multitude of wine styles is determined by the variety of climates and soil types.
The vineyards south of the city of Angers are predominantly planted to Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
Some highly individual dry reds and whites are produced under the Anjou Appellation as well as the very popular mellow Rose d’Anjou. The sweet style of Chenin Blanc has its own Appellation of Coteaux du Layon.
Some of the finest dessert wines in the world also come from this area and bear the Appellation of Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume.
Some of the best sites are located right outside the small village of Thouarce, where the Chateau de Fesles is also located, perched on top of a hill above the river and surrounded by old vines.
Chateau de Fesles makes a spectacular Bonnezeaux from very old vine Chenin Blanc. On a recent visit to the winery we were able to sample wines from the current vintage back to 1921.
What differentiates Bonnezeaux from other famous dessert wines is its approachability at young age which doesn’t hurt its longevity. Even the very latest vintage showed complexity, varietal and terroir character. With time these wines reach levels of complexity rarely achieved elsewhere. The memory of the purity and elegance of the ’21 Chateau de Fesles (its color was identical to the 2000 vintage) is still haunting me.
The 2000 (500 ml bottles) and 2002 (375 ml bottles) vintages of Fesles Bonnezeaux are currently available at ABC and are quite possibly the best bargain on quality dessert wine on the market.
Enjoy before meal or after with light fruit or cream based desserts; all-time favorite is crème brulee topped with fresh raspberries and a glass (or two) of 2000 Chateaux de Fesles Bonnezeaux!
Other great wines from the area not to be missed are the Dry Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc from Chateau de la Roulerie both priced under $12, as well as the mellow Rose and Coteaux du Layon (baby Bonnezeaux) from the same winery. The passionate winemaker at La Roulerie is Philippe Germain.
Wine is a family affair for the Germains for more than three generations, going back to their origins in Bordeaux. Philippe’s brother Thierry has embraced the bio-dynamic approach to farming vines at his Domaine des Roches Neuves. His 2004 Terres Chaudes (100% Cabernet Franc) is available for less than $25. Bernard Germain is Philippe and Thierry’s father, and is the man behind the wines of Chateaux de Fesles. Other Germain properties include Pechaud, Peyredoule and Maine Gazin in Bordeaux.