Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux 1990
Constructed in 1070 on the summit of one of the four hills possessing the right to use the appellation Bonnezeaux, it dominates the Layon valley. From its windows, one can observe 21 church spires. It quickly became a manor house and controlled the surrounding countryside. The monks from a neighboring monastery were the first to grow vines. The vicissitudes of history meant that it was not until the 18th century, while the region was going through a particularly difficult period, that the chateau took its present form. During this period, the Count of Provence and Duke of Anjou, brother of Louis XVI, oversaw the construction of the Layon canal. This brought many merchants to the region which was responsible, in part, for making the great wines of Layon and Bonnexeaux known to much of the world. The property was bought in 1870 by the Boivan family of brokers in Angers. They kept the property for four generations and made it one of the best known estates for the high quality of its wines. Bernard Germain bought the property in 1996.
The chateau was totally restored in 1991 and is, today, in the traditional colors of the region, white and light rose. Its chard is increased by the presence of a garden with over 200 different types of roses. The whole is dominated by an oak over 450 years of age.
Chateau de Fesles is, without doubt, the best known estate with the largest vineyard holding in the Bonnezeaux appellation, which is one of only two to have Grand Cru status in Anjou. The vineyard of de Fesles is made up of old vines (average age is 50 years) and covers 84 acres, grouped around the chateau and separated into two parts:
The Hillside: Planted with Chenin Blanc, the only grape allowed for Bonnezeaux wines. The proximity of the Layon river makes for morning mists which favor the development, in autumn, of Botrytis or Noble Rot, to concentrate the grapes so as to produce one of the greatest dessert wines in the world.
The Plateau: Planted in Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon for dry red wines.
Known for its delightful whites and sparkling Pétillant and Mousseux, made predominantly of Chenin blanc, Anjou has a temperate and dry maritime climate. The region's limited temperature variations are admiringly referred to locally as the “douceur angevine,” or “Anjou sweetness.” Fruit forward rosé and red wines from Cabernet Franc and Gamay merit Anjou its success within the Loire subregions.
Unquestionably one of the most diverse grape varieties, Chenin blanc can do it all. It shines in every style from bone dry to unctuously sweet, oaked or unoaked, still or sparkling and even as the base for fortified wines and spirits. Perhaps Chenin blanc’s greatest asset is its ever-present acidity, maintained even under warm growing conditions. While most would agree it reigns supreme when from its birthplace of the Loire Valley, Chenin is the most planted variety in South Africa. California’s Clarksburg appellation is also winning more notoriety for its Chenin.
In the Glass
Chenin's drier versions commonly have characteristics of passion fruit, lemon, quince, green apple, saffron and chamomile while sweeter version express aromas and flavors such as yellow pear, white peach, persimmon, melon, ginger and honeysuckle. When aged in oak, qualities like meringue and brioche can be found. Sparkling versions often have yellow apple, ginger and floral notes.
Cool-climate Chenin blanc has the chalky acidity to work with light seafood such as oysters and shellfish. Off-dry styles work well with the sweet-and-sour nature of Thai and Vietnamese food. The sparkling versions such as Saumur Mousseux, Vouvray Petillant and Crémant de Loire make amazing aperitif options that won’t bruise the pocketbook.
South Africa actually has double the amount of Chenin blanc planted compared to France. It is believed that either the Dutch navigator, Jan van Riebeeck, brought the grape to Cape Town in 1655 or the Huguenots fleeing France brought it in 1685. Either way, the South Africans have favored it for many centuries and make it in almost every style. Today a new wave of dedicated producers has committed to restoring old Chenin vines and finding the most ideal new spots for this prized variety.