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Chateau de Fesles F de Fesles (half-bottle) 1998
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.
Praised for its stately Renaissance-era chateaux, the picturesque Loire valley produces pleasant wines of just about every style. Just south of Paris, the appellation lies along the river of the same name and stretches from the Atlantic coast to the center of France.
The Loire can be divided into three main growing areas, from west to east: the Lower Loire, Middle Loire, and Upper/Central Loire. The Pay Nantais region of the Lower Loire—farthest west and closest to the Atlantic—has a maritime climate and focuses on the Melon de Bourgogne variety, which makes refreshing, crisp, aromatic whites.
The Middle Loire contains Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. In Anjou, Chenin Blanc produces some of, if not the most, outstanding dry and sweet wines with a sleek, mineral edge and characteristics of crisp apple, pear and honeysuckle. Cabernet Franc dominates red and rosé production here, supported often by Grolleau and Cabernet Sauvignon. Sparkling Crémant de Loire is a specialty of Saumur. Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc are common in Touraine as well, along with Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and Malbec (known locally as Côt).
The Upper Loire, with a warm, continental climate, is Sauvignon Blanc country, home to the world-renowned appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Pinot Noir and Gamay produce bright, easy-drinking red wines here.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.