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Bonnezeaux wines rank amongst the most respected sweet wines of the Loire – and even all of France. They are made exclusively from Chenin Blanc which is known there as Pineau de la Loire. The appellation translates as "good waters".
The vines of Domaine du Petit Val are divided over the towns of Chavagnes and Thouarcé, in the heart of the country Coteaux du Layon.
The estate was created in 1950 by Vincent Goizil with 4.5 hectares of vineyards, of which 1.3 appellation Bonnezeaux. The passage of time has seen the acquisition of new land, and in 1988, the year when Denis and Janine took over from its predecessor, the property covered 18 acres. Today it has 45, of which 19 is devoted to Chenin Blanc.
Bonnezeaux is a highly respected sweet white wine appellation of the Anjou district in the western Loire Valley of France. Created in 1951, the title covers only a small part of the Thouarce commune, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) south of the Loire river as it passes Angers.
Bonnezeaux wines rank amongst the most respected sweet wines of the Loire – and even all of France. They are made exclusively from Chenin Blanc which is known here as Pineau de la Loire. The appellation translates as "good waters".
Roughly 90 hectares (220 acres) of vines are used to produce Bonnezeaux wine, planted in the sandy shale soils that characterize the local terrain. They grow in a very stable climate, moderated by the oceanic influence of the Atlantic. Their mesoclimate is neither too dry nor too wet, and blesses the gentle, south-facing slopes with higher-than-average levels of sunshine.
The grapes are harvested in tries successives. These are multiple passes through the vineyard over a period of days and weeks, in which the only grapes picked are the very ripest and those affected by the 'noble' rot botrytis.
This method was introduced to the Loire by the winemaker generally credited with establishing the Bonnezeaux appellation in the first place: Jean Boivin. He brought the technique from his harvests spent in Sauternes. It soon caught on and spread to other local appellations.
It is particularly symbolic that the method should have been brought here from Sauternes; just as the Garonne and its tributaries create a sinuous patchwork of mesoclimates in the southern Graves, so the Loire, fed by the Layon and the Aubance, creates perfect conditions for the creation of botrytized wines. The Selection de Grains Nobles title that now appears on many Coteaux du Layon wines (borrowed from Alsace) is reserved especially for wines harvested in this way.
In termms of reputation of Loire sweet wines, Bonnezeaux is probably outdone only by Quarts de Chaume, produced 14 kilometers (nine miles) to the northwest. This is attributed to the more stringent production conditions of Quarts de Chaume wines and their famously exclusive vineyard area.
Bonnezeaux also faces competition from another Chaume title, the Chaume Premier Cru Côteaux du Layon appellation. Although technically a sub appellation of the less demanding Coteaux du Layon, Chaume actually has the same production conditions as Bonnezeaux. It earned official Premier Cru status in 2003.
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