It seems that we are in for some fine sunny weather at last. About time too – last week the forecast promised hot sunny days and it was not until Friday when we were out and about in the hills of the Layon that the sun at last made it’s entrance. We met Wendy Paillé of Pithon-Paillé in the spectacular vineyard Les Treilles first thing in the morning. Dull and misty, the views over the surrounding vineyards were muted and undefined as we walked to the top of the 70% slope to take in the challenge of working a site like this.
Les Treilles produces fine dry and superb sweet white wines from the Chenin blanc grape. Intially planted ungrafted, many vines have succumbed to phylloxera so replacement vines have been grafted. The top soil is thin and as you look down you can see friable slate, quartz, rhyolites and purple schist. Wild flowers surround the vines – heather, dill, sage, marigolds and butterflies flutter around this lovely organic vineyard. The rare Belargus butterfly (small and bright blue), loves it here.
After an hour trecking in the vines we returned to the winery where Wendy led us through a tasting of the wines from Pithon-Paillé. The domaine produces a range of wines, some from its own vineyards and some it produces as a négociant. The dry white from Les Treilles has a beautiful minerality and is testament to the sheer hard work involved in managing this vineyard. With yields of around 10hl/ha you can see it’s a labour of love.
Lunch was at La Table du Square in Chaudefonds sur Layon. There is no menu as what is prepared is what is available and in season – we enjoyed a light salad of Charentais melon with cured ham and crumbled fresh goat’s cheese, lamb cutlets with olive polenta and roasted red peppers and to finish, a strawberry tiramisu. The restaurant is part of a working domaine so wines served are their own – we enjoyed a glass of Crémant as an apero and then a bottle of Anjou villages 2010 from the estate.
If you are lucky enough to be blessed with a sunny day, this restaurant has to be one of the nicest places to dine. Perched high in the hills, you can see for miles around.
After lunch we visited Domaine Cady in St Aubin de Luigne for a tasting. Sylvie Cady looked after us and we tasted a range of wines including the Rosé de Loire (which at a very reasonable 4,90€ a bottle seems incredible value), Cheninsolite (made by Alexandre Cady, an oak fermented and aged Chenin, elegant and delicious) and a range of the domaine’s fabulous sweet Chenins. Sylvie recommended that we make a stop at the local windmill in St Aubin if we had time so off we went and what a delightful surprise. Inside the windmill is a staircase that leads to a viewing balcony with 360° views of the Layon valley. From here you can spot all the major villages in the Layon and see right over towards Savennières.
The Coteaux du Layon is perhaps most famous for its wonderful sweet wines but producers in Anjou have a wide palate to play with so make many other styles of wine too including sparkling, dry white, rosé and red. The landscape is quite different to elsewhere in the Loire valley and is well worth a visit on foot, by car or cycling through the vineyards. This visit was part of our Loire Wine Discovery tour which on this occasion took us into the hills of the Layon.