The birthplace of Chenin Blanc
By Jim Budd
This Guide was last updated on 19 April 2011
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Rochefort-sur-Loire, one of the six Layon villages, on the left bank of the Loire and the Louet, where it's ideal to picnic.
© Mick Rock/Cephas
Along with Touraine, Anjou is the heart of the Loire Valley and its vineyards. Famous for its gentle climate – le douceur Angevin – and its gently rolling landscape, Anjou produces a wide range of wines – virtually everything apart from fortified wines. The greatest glories of Anjou’s vineyards are the sweet wines from the Coteaux du Layon and the Coteaux de l’Aubance made from remarkable Chenin Blanc grape, whose birthplace is here. The past 20 years have seen a renaissance in the making of Anjou’s sweet wines, which are often rich but not cloying because of the balancing acidity. Depending on the year they are made in arrange of sweetness which can work at various stages during a meal. The quality of the region’s dry whites is also well worth exploring – Savennières certainly, but also Anjou Blanc from top producers can be fine and complex. Although generally more tannic and angular than reds from Saumur and Chinon, Anjou Villages are increasing well made with the best certainly ageworthy.
Perhaps because there are not the same plethora of famous châteaux to visit, tourist facilities in Anjou are less developed here than further east in Saumur and Touraine. Even Angers has few really good hotels, although the choice of restaurants is improving, but the city remains the most obvious and convenient base. More positively there are an increasing number of chambres d’hôtes opening.
Geologically Anjou is probably the Loire’s most complex region as it is on the boundary of the soft sedimentary rocks of the Paris basin, typically the mix of clay and soft limestone tuffeau, and the hard, igneous rocks of the Brittany peninsula, particularly various types of schist and slate.
Anjou’s gentle climate means that winter is rarely hard, spring comes early and the autumn is often long and fine and reasonably free of Atlantic rainfall. These conditions allow producers in Anjou make sweet wine successfully in almost every vintage either through concentration by noble rot, which loves misty mornings and long sunny autumnal days, or through passerillage, the concentration of sugars through the heat of the sun. With the notable exception of Savennières the vines are south of the Loire and concentrated around the L’Aubance and Layon valleys. The early spring does have a drawback – parts of Anjou are prone to spring frosts especially in April.
The Loire flows through the middle of France, and Angers is the principal town of Anjou, situated to the north of the region. From Paris by road the journey takes just under three hours using the motorway A11 exit 14. The completion of the A85 Angers to Vierzon motorway makes travelling along the Loire Valley much quicker and easier than in the past. By rail there is a regular TGV service which takes 1½ hours. The closest large international airport is Paris. Nantes, which has the Loire’s most significant airport, is about 105km or 1 hour and 10 minutes from Angers with regular flights from an number of European cities, including Liverpool, London, Madrid and Milan as well as further afield. Tours has a regional airport with flights to the UK and a few other European destinations. There is also a small airport at Angers with BA running flights from London City airport three times a week from May 2012.
Anjou Regional Tourism Office,
Comité Départemental du Tourisme de l'Anjou, Place Kennedy, 49021 Angers
Angers Tourist Office,
7 Place Kennedy, 49000 Angers
Brissac-Quincé Tourist Office
8, Place de la République, 49320 Brissac-Quincé
Wines of the Loire Information.
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