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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Baron de la Varière 2007, Coteaux du Layon, Jacques Beaujeau

(28th December 2008)
As we had enough foie gras from the Ferme du Prieure in Pocé-sur-Cisse for a first course, so what to drink with it? I opted for the Baron de la Varière 2007 Coteaux du Layon from Jacques Beaujeau in Brissac-Quincé. This youthful, reasonably rich and honeyed but not over-rich Layon worked very well with the foie gras. Although I have to say that this foie gras was over-salty and nothing like as good as the foie-gras we bought in Loches market from Michel Dufour of Mouzay ( on Christmas Eve which was really excellent. However, the range of duck patés from the Ferme du Prieure are very good. The Baron de la Varière 2007 was one of some bottles that we bought at the Foire aux Vins held in the Champion store in Faverolles-sur-Cher at the end of September.

This seems an appropriate moment to post a short profiile of Jacques and Anne Beaujeau and Château la Varière that I wrote for Decanter magazine earlier this year to mark them winning the Decanter regional Loire sweet wine trophy for 2008.

Loire sweet wine trophy
Château la Varière Les Melleresses Bonnezeaux 2005
Just across the road from the imposing renaissance Château de Brissac is the immaculately kept Château la Varière owned by Jacques and Anne Beaujeau. With its gravelled driveway and beautifully kept barn and other outbuildings this 100 hectare estate is one of the showpieces of Anjou. The property dates from the 15th century and the barn, one of the oldest buildings, serves as the red wine barrel chai, while a slightly more recent building is used for the whites – dry and sweet.

Having owned the property since 1850, the Beaujeaus are well established in Brissac. However, in comparison to some of the other local vignerons like the Daviau family at Domaine de Bablut in Brissac since 1546 and the Richous (Domaine Richou) present in Mozé-sur-Louet since 1554 they are newcomers.

When Jacques Beaujeau took over the family estate in the 1970s they had 45 hectares of vines. He has more than doubled its size. Also in 2002 Jacques bought the 43-hectare Domaine de la Perruche at Montsoreau in the Saumur-Champigny appellation. Perruche also produces Saumur Blanc, Coteaux de Saumur and Saumur brut from Chenin Blanc.

At Varière they make the customary range of Anjou wines in all three colours including a very good Anjou Villages La Chevalerie made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2005 the 2003 won the DWWA Regional Loire Bordeaux varietal over £10 Trophy.

Jacques with the 2005 Les Melleresses, Bonnezeaux
(Unfortunately there wasn't time to take his picture in
the vines at Bonnezeaux, so this was
taken at La Varière in Brissac-Quincé.)

Early on Jacques bought a parcel of vines in Bonnezeaux appellation – one of two crus in the Coteaux du Layon. Bonnezeaux is about 10 kilometres south of Brissac. Quarts de Chaume is the other cru and both appellations are wonderfully well sited in relation to the River Layon for the early and extensive appearance of noble rot. Beaujeau’s parcel of Bonnezeaux is at the western end of the appellation on steep slopes just above the distillery of the small town of Thouarcé. Beaujeau makes two Bonnezeaux – Les Melleresses, the top one, is always the premier tri. Later in the 1990s he also bought a parcel in the Quarts de Chaume

2005 was one of those idyllic vintages when the autumn weather was so good that producers could wait until the optimum moment to pick. Normally, of course, harvest time is stressful and pressurised but in 2005 I have never seen the Loire vignerons so relaxed during le vendange..

“In 2005 the botrytis developed quickly and we picked Les Melleresses between the 15th and 25th October. The wine is vinified and aged in barriques here at Brissac. There remain around 220 grams of residual sugar per litre.”

We had two Bonnezeaux entered in the Decanter World Wine Awards tasting. The other was also Les Melleresses Château la Varière but from 2003. Although the 2003 is very rich and full, we preferred the balance and finesse of the 2005. Both are very fine and can be enjoyed now. However, they will live for decades and it is quite possible that as the richness of the 2003 mellows with time that it will long term be the greater wine. It will be fascinating to see how the two develop.

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