Côteaux du Layon

/KOH-toh dyoo LAY-oh'/

Coteaux du Layon is a small, middle Loire commune around the river Layon, a tributary of the Loire 20 km south of Angers, producing rich, smooth and sweet white AOC wines made from Chenin grapes, the most famous Anjou wine.

The vineyards are planted on mineral rich schist, on steep slopes above the Layon river. The vineyards face south and south-west, allowing for maximum light and warmth in autumn (US: fall). These last two factors are essential for the development of botrytis cynera, a micro-organism, also known as "noble rot" that, in years when all conditions are right, causes the grape skins to become permeable. On warm autumn (US: fall) afternoons, the morning mists from the river (which help prevent frost) burn off and water evaporates from the grapes, making the remaining juice intensely sweet and concentrated. In years when botrytis is present, the harvest is postponed for maximum ripeness and sweetness. Often the pickers will go through the vineyards several times, individually selecting which grapes will be harvested that day and which will be left on the vine to ripen further. An ill-timed rain will cause the grapes to rot on the vine and a sudden frost will destroy the crop. This means that quantities are always limited.

The wines are fermented slowly, at cool temperatures, to maximize their fruit aromas, and are usually bottled quite young to keep the fruit flavors as lively as possible.