Tuesday afternoon we had set aside to do some wine tasting and buying in the Coteaux du Layon region, which is part of the Anjou wine area. When it comes to wine, the Loire Valley in general can be very confusing as far as appellations go, and the Anjou area, including the Coteaux du Layon, is one of the more complicated regions. For reds, there are the basic Anjou and Anjou-Villages appellations, but there are also additional appellations such as Anjou-Coteaux de la Loire. And in the Coteaux du Layon, there are numerous sub-appellations and crus.
The Coteaux du Layon appellation is for sweet white wines only, and the sole grape is Chenin Blanc. Dry white wines, also made from Chenin, use the Anjou appellation. Coteaux du Layon covers a fairly wide area, but there are also 7 small sub-appellations that are each centered around a particular village which can append the village name to Coteaux du Layon. On our first day we had gone to an opoen house where the producer made Coteaux du Layon-Faye. On Tuesday we visited 2 producers who made Coteaux du Layon wines from several other sub-appellations. To further complicate matters, one of the sub-appellations – Chaume – can now append “Premier Cru” to its name. And then there is a separate appellation, Quarts de Chaume (literally a quarter of Chaume), which, since the 2011 vintage, is a Grand Cru.
|Four Crus of Coteaux du Layon|
Our first stop was fortuitous, as while we were a little lost while searching for a particular road and winery I saw a sign for Domaine Ogereau, a producer I knew well from reading various wine blogs. Domaine Ogerau is run by Vincent Ogerau, a winemaker who is considered a demi-God by those who are familiar with the wines of Anjou. The place looked pretty deserted, but when I rang the bell at the caveau, a man came out of the nearby house and said “I'm coming” (actually “J'arrive”). One glance and I knew immediately that it was Vincent Ogerau. He opened up the tasting room, and poured us wines from his entire range, incuding red Anjou, Savennieres (a unique dry white made from Chenin Blanc vineyards around the village of Savennieres on the other side of the Loire River), and several sweet Coteaux du Layon wines, incuding Cotaux du Layon-Saint Lambert de Lattay, another sub-appellation. The wines were amazing, and we bought several bottles of Savennieres and Coteaux du Layon.
After leaving Domaine Ogerau, we drove to the nearby village of Saint Aubin de Luigné, which we had passed through the other day. There was a magnificent old turetted building in the center of town that is now the mayor's office.
Just outside the center of of St. Aubin de Luigné is Domiane des Forges, a wine producer that we wanted to visit after having tasted their wines at a wine bar in Bordeaux at the start of our trip. The woman at the tasting room sat us down and proceeded to pour pretty much everything in their line of wines, including red and white Anjou, Savennieres, Coteaux du Layon, and Quarts de Chaume. The Coteaux du Layons incuded their basic CDL appellation, a Coteaux du Layon-St. Aubin, Coteaux du Layon-Chaume “1er Cru,” and a Quarts de Chaume “Grand Cru.” We bought a red Anjou and several bottles of their sweet wines.
The next day we had an appointment at Domaine de l'écu, a Muscadet producer, which had been arranged by Paul Chartrand, their US importer. Paul is based in Rockland, Maine, and started importing organic wines decades before the so-called “natural” wine movement began. Domaine de l'écu has been run by Muscadet legend Guy Bossard for many years, but recently Bossard has taken on a partner, Fred Niger Van Herck. Our appointment was with Fred, who poured their entire line of Muscadets, including an unusual, and excellent, barrel-aged Muscadet that was reminiscent of a slightly oxidized Jura wine. Fred also poured their wine made from the rare Gros Plant grape, a varietal that I had never had before. Fred hasn't changed the winemaking style at the domaine, but he has jazzed up the labels a bit. Although we were well stocked with wine already, we did purchase a few bottles.
After our tasting at Domaine de l'écu we had lunch at a nearby restaurant that had been recommended by Fred. They had great seafood and oysters, which we had with some Muscadet. Although it's often said that the best wine match with oysters is either Champagne or Chablis, I've always thought that Muscadet is a better choice. After all, this area is known for its oysters.
Following lunch with drove to the town of Clisson, which is bisected by several rivers, including the Sevre and the Maine (hence the appellation “Muscadet Sevre et Maine”). Clisson has a beautiful center of town, which includes a medieval fortress, 15th century stone bridges, and several examples of Italian style architecture that had been introduced to Clisson by the Cacault brothers and Frederic Lemot in the 18th century.