It is difficult to overstate the importance of the Layon for the sweet wines of the Loire Valley. As it draws nearer to the Loire, this little tributary meanders with admirable confidence, almost as if it were trying to delay the very moment when the two rivers must eventually make contact, at which point the subservient Layon will then be forced to add its waters to the regal flow of the Loire. As the river approaches Chaudefonds-sur-Layon, very close to the union of the two rivers, each meandering loop of the river travels more than a kilometre from one side to the other; indeed, at this point the river spends much more time travelling sideways than it does travelling forward.
This lazy wandering is in fact a valuable feature of the Layon (and the same could also be said of its smaller cousin, the Aubance). These sweeping loops create little outcrops of land which are, in the most extreme cases, framed on three sides by the loop of the river. Unsurprisingly, vineyards on these little outcrops are subjected to higher levels of humidity, and sometimes lingering river mists. These are perfect conditions for the development of botrytis rot, and as a result the region has rightly gained acclaim for the quality of its sweet wines. These slopes are, of course, home to the Coteaux du Layon appellation.
I have profiled many domaines which benefit from the wayward course taken by the Layon; sitting on the opposite bank to Chaudefonds-sur-Layon on one such finger of land, for example, is Patrick Baudoin. Visiting the region many years ago I headed upstream from here, just a short distance, to St-Aubin-de-Luigné, where I found Domaine Cady. The Cady family have, for several generations, quite rightly focused on the sweet wines for which the region is so well known. The results are rich and yet full of quartzy, crystalline purity, a very typical style for the Coteaux du Layon appellation and one that sets these wines apart from the world’s other sweet wines. These are remarkable wines, sometimes heavily botrytised, and yet always full of vigour. Despite this, the domaine does not receive the accolades that can sometimes be heaped upon more famous neighbours. This is, in my opinion, one of the most under-rated and overlooked domaines in the Coteaux du Layon appellation.Please log in to continue reading: