The Wine of Anjou – Les Rouges
To cover all of the 26 Appellations of Anjou in one blog would simply be too much. Thus I will cover just the Reds here and the Blancs, Rosés Sparkling and ‘Sweeties’ in separate postings.
The basic appellation is, of course, Anjou and, (for the reds), they are divided into the following sub-appellations.
Commercial production of red wine in Anjou is, (in French terms) in its infancy. The Anjou appellation was only granted in 1936 and Anjou-Village not until 1987. California has produced reds longer than Anjou!! In 1955 red production was only accounting for 1% of overall production and, as the market for rosés slowly declined, increasing amounts of red took their place. Vignerons turned to the variety they had continually used for the production of their sweet rosés, Cabernet Franc. Having spent the 70’s and 80’s learning the ropes of red production, rouge now accounts for about 30% of overall production.
Anjou Rouge is designed for drinking within three years and is a gusty, fruity quaffer, brimming over with red berry flavours. It is a wine meant for socialising with your friends whilst you sit round discussing the day’s events.
Anjou Village is the next step up. A serious wine, production is limited to 56 communes within Anjou. Maceration is from two to four weeks as opposed to the ten to fifteen days usual for Anjou Rouge. As I said earlier, red production is very young in the region and perhaps, because of this, it is difficult to define exactly what a good Anjou Village should taste like. Producers are creating everything from huge new world look-alikes to elegant Saumur-Champigny like “taffeta” wines. The use of Cabernet Sauvignon is much more common than in Saumur and the chunkier more foursquare taste lends itself more readily to oak ageing. Compared to the elegance of Saumur and of Champigny, AnjouVillage often seems a more rustic, plainer wine. However, this is certainly not the case now and serious, hand crafted Cabernets are easy to find. The best have intense, red berry, cherry flavours, noticeable tannins and are supremely adaptable, being able to accompany almost any meat based course from steak to game.
Anjou-Village-Brissac is a very recent appellation given to the producers around Brissac-Quince in Le Coteaux l’Aubance who were the prime movers in obtaining the Anjou-Village appellation. The appellation covers ten communes sloping down towards the Loire. I have to say that, whilst I have tasted some supreme examples of Brissac, I cannot say, hand on heart, that I have not tasted equally good wines from producers in the Layon. Still, it is early days and time will tell. That is not to say that they are not great wines, dense, complex, full bodied and with robust tannins. It is just that other producers are doing the same thing elsewhere in Anjou. Perhaps the difference is that, at least in theory, you should have an easier time discovering an excellent wine in the limited area of Brissac as opposed to searching the whole of Anjou.
The final red appellation is Anjou-Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais. There are examples made by Maceration Carbonique, the same method used in Beaujolais production. But most is made by standard methods which produces, like
Beaujolais is supposed to do, a purple, vibrant, fruity wine, made to drink quickly and with gusto.
Finally we should mention Grolleau. This is a local grape, long the mainstay of rosé production. It is occasionally bottled as a red Vin de Pays by certain producers led, surprisingly enough, by the estate of the famous French actor Geraud Dépardieu at Chateau Tigné near Vihiers. It produces a rustic, fruity quaffer best drunk slightly chilled and is none the worse for that.
There are literally 100’s of producers in Anjou and space, together with numerous different styles prevents me listing my favourites. My advice would be to base yourself in the area for a week or two and try as many as you can!! Probably the biggest problem is that I do not think that the range of Red Anjou available in the UK (for instance) is at all representative of the quality and diversity which one can find in the region. If anyone would like any advice on bottles they find on their local shelves I would be happy to help if I can.