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Coteaux du Layon


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The Coteaux du Layon region, located within Anjou, is known for its sweet Chenin Blancs, made under both the Coteaux du Layon AOC and under those of its three subregions: Bonnezeaux, Chaume, and the miniscule Quarts de Chaume. The wines are generally made from noble-rotted grapes, but can also be made from late-harvested grapes. Less common methods of wine sweetening also exist, but are not so popular.

Coteaux du Layon wines are made from the vineyards of six villages: Beaulieu-sur-Layon, Faye d'Anjou, Rablay-sur-Layon, Rochefort-sur-Layon, St-Aubin-de-Luigné, and St-Lambert-du-Lattay. These vineyards make up about 3,500 acres of planted land. Considering the large size of the appellation, the high quality and rather low quantity of the wines produced here is impressive. The reason is that the manufacture of sweet wines is not always successful, and the precision and care required in making them mostly takes greedy producers out of the equation.

The three subappellations aside, Coteaux du Layon's wines are outstanding in themselves. However, they are considered an acquired taste. The modern styles start out with only insipid sweetness (throughout history, outrageously sweet, honeyed wines have varied in popularity) and grow gradually richer and darker with age. Critics differ on whether to drink Coteaux du Layon early or late; it's mostly a matter of personal taste. Either way, the best of these wines have little difficulty developing over a quarter century.

History

Just like the rest of Anjou, Coteaux du Layon is an old appellation, but the processes used to make the wines are newer. The Coteaux du Layon appellation was officially established in 1950.

Climate and Viticulture

All the best of the Coteaux du Layon wines are made on slopes that lead down to the river. Coteaux du Layon is almost entirely composed of waterfront land, which is generally the source of higher-quality wine than landlocked vineyards. The river exerts a cooling influence on what is otherwise an excessively hot region. Most importantly, mist forms around the river, which is the same factor that contributes to the greatness of Sauternes. It's no coincidence; misty vineyards are more likely to attract Botrytis cinerea.

The soils of the riverbanks are perfect for Chenin Blanc...pure schist. With the combination of great soil and the river's influence on the land, this is one of the best places in France for sweet Chenin Blanc growth.

Grape Varieties

Major Producers

Here is a taste of 5 of the particularly good producers of Coteaux du Layon. For the best producers of its subregions, see those individual pages.

Subregions

The three subregions of Coteaux du Layon have lower production than the parent region, which translates to higher prices and higher quality.

In the wines of Coteaux du Layon, some producers choose to add on the name of the village in which the wine was made. Beaulieu is the best of these.