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Côteaux Du Layon

Côteaux du Layon is the largest (geographically speaking) of the sweet wine appellations in the Loire Valley's Anjou district. Introduced in 1950, it covers 27 communes to the south of Angers, accounting for roughly 4,200 acres (1,700ha) of vineyards. A small number of these communes have been identified as the source of particularly fine sweet wines. As a result, they have earned either their own independent appellations or the right to append their village names as a part of the appellation title. Those with their own appellations are Quarts de Chaume (which covers a small area within Rochefort-sur-Loire) and Bonnezeaux (a tiny village next to Faye d'Anjou).

The quality of the area's sweet wines is due in large part to its topography – itself a result of the local river systems, including the Layon. Over the millennia the river has carved out gentle, south-facing slopes and pockets of sheltered mesoclimates that protect the vineyards from cold continental winds blowing in from the north and east. In late summer, the morning mists rising from the river promote the development of botrytis, an essential ingredient in the best Côteaux du Layon wines.

The sweetest Côteaux du Layon wines are sold with Selection de Grains Nobles mentioned after the appellation title. They are made from grapes harvested in tries successives – i.e. multiple passes through the vineyard, with pickers collecting only grapes affected by noble rot. This title was brought to the Loire from Alsace to replace the former sweetness statements Demi-Sec, Moelleux and Liquoreux, although the tries successives harvesting method is credited to the top châteaux of Sauternes.

All Côteaux du Layon wines are made exclusively from Chenin Blanc grapes, which thrive on the schistous soils here. Chenin (or Pineau de la Loire as it is known locally) is by far the most widely used variety in the sweet wines of the Loire. It is at its peak within the catchment area of the Côteaux du Layon and its northern neighbour, Côteaux de l'Aubance.

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