VISIT TO CHATEAU DE FESLES DEEP IN THE HEART OF BONNEZEAUX
One of the advantages of ‘Living in the Loire’ is that it enables us to indulge in our pleasure of visiting lovely chateaux and discovering new wines of the region whenever we get chance and yesterday was one of those days when we were invited to visit the renowned Chateaux de Fesles, (pronounced “Felle”) situated in the district of Thouarcé in the Anjou region very close to the village of Bonnezeaux itself, lying about twenty kilometres south of Angers and about thirty minutes from our gites at Le Clos des Guyons. So, off we went through the delightful countryside around Thouarcé, driving past the sloping vineyards and herds of white, Charolais cattle lying in the sunshine. That is the cattle were lying in the sunshine not the vines!.
Chateau de Fesles is a magnificent estate dating back to 1070, however, records of producing superb wine are really found in the 1870’s when purchased by the Boivin family. It has one of the greatest reputations in Angers and is certainly the grandest. Several owners later it still has an enormous reputation. The estate covers 33 hectares of which only 14 are classified as AC Bonnezeaux. These 14 hectares lie on the slope of the hill immediately around the chateau and are planted with Chenin Blanc. These vineyards slope down to the river Layon and it is the humidity and the rising Autumn mist which encourages the “Noble Rot” which gives their impeccable Bonnezeaux its unique taste.The soil here is stony, Silurian soil covered by a mixture of decomposed shale as well as blue and red clay. As well as Chenin Blanc on the slopes on the plateau both Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are planted for an Anjou Rouge and some Grolleau and Gamay for the Anjou Rosé. On entering their reception/tasting room we had a friendly welcome before being guided through various tastings including their Chenin Sec Blanc “La Chapelle” Vieilles Vignes, Anjou Rouge, Cabernet d’Anjou, Rosé d’Anjou and lastly different vintages of their prestigious and delicious Bonnezeaux sweet wine which was mind blowing making you appreciate the subtle differences between each vintage; How these wines age so gracefully over the years!
We were not disappointed with any of the wines we tasted and were tempted to buy a few bottles including their 2014 ‘La Chapelle’ Vieilles Vignes Anjou Blanc (limited edition No 18088) a dry white wine made with 100% Chenin grapes and matured in oak casks for 12 months. It has a lovely straw colour and a nose of, lime and elderberry and the typical Chenin white fruits and citron. Very well balanced and a lingering finish – we loved it. Also we chose their 2014 Rose d’Anjou, a beautiful salmon pink colour, delicately perfumed with strawberries, well balanced and we thought an exceptional aperitif wine! The local grolleau, when used judiciously gives an almost pinot noir feel to a Rosé. Finally, a visit to Chateau de Fesles wouldn’t have been complete without purchasing some of their exquisite Bonnezeaux. This is a hand crafted production and like all great sweet wines takes patience and courage with harvesting taking place ‘berry by berry’ by ‘multiple passes’ through the vineyard, a process known as “tri”. Its work which is intensive, time consuming needs a lot of belief. We selected their 2010 Vin Rare – an excellent year – the wine was bursting with luscious honey, lychees and melon with that typical lemon on the finish. As Sheila pointed out this would be perfect to share with our guests for her special birthday celebration looming in a few months time and so now it’s slumbering in our wine chais at Le Clos des Guyons waiting for the occasion. However it is important to realise that Sheila is a bit like the Queen in that her birthday celebration can take well over a month so when it will get opened I’m not quite sure!. Before leaving we had a quick tour of the operation including their cave fitted with rows of Oak and Arcaia barrels full of Bonnezeaux and Chenin just resting in air conditioned tranquility! What a grand and noble sight! After we had filled our car boot we decided to enjoy the hot sunshine and took a walk around outside and admired their beautiful rolling vineyards next to the Layon river. All in all a memorable visit with helpful and friendly staff ! Indeed we have always found that the Loire wine region welcomes its visitors with warmth and friendliness and the only problem is that tastings can last much longer than anticipated! Well, when I say problem…………..?!
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