Pineau d’Aunis: the bashful star of the Loire
I adore Cabernet Franc, so when I recently visited the Loire, for a wine event called Loire Millésime, I was very excited about tasting plenty of examples. It didn’t disappoint, but – to my surprise – I had an affair with another grape variety, little known, understated, produced in tiny quantities and, above all, utterly charming.
Pineau d’Aunis has a history spanning almost a thousand years, yet it is very much the bashful star of the Loire. It can be somewhat capricious in the vineyard, so perhaps that’s why it almost disappeared about fifty years ago, saved by some passionate vignerons who understood its value. You can read more about the variety here in my monthly column for Club Oenologique, where I describe it as ‘delicate, detailed and deliciously de rigueur’.
Coteaux du Loir, ‘Le Rouge-Gorge’, Domaine de Bellivière, 2017 (£29 online from specialist retailers) comes from grapes farmed using biodynamic methods. Producers, Eric and Christine Nicolas use their cool cellar, carved from the local ‘tuffeau’ (a mix of chalk and limestone), to craft a wine with a nose of enchanting foraged blackberry, succulent morello cherry, and both black and white pepper. The fruit is sappy and fresh, the tannins supple and the finish satisfyingly peppery. It’s the perfect summer wine, with a really gentle chill.