The Magic of Pineau des Charentes
Pineau des Charentes is the vin de liqueur, or mistelle, of the Cognac region. A mix of Cognac eau de vie and grape must, the rick, bold aroma of Pineau des Charentes is the result of undue expertise, creating a winning combination of fresh fruit and brandy warmth with a gentle spirit-kick.
Swirl a glass of Pineau and you’ll notice how the viscous liquid runs in rivulets down the inside of the glass; these ‘legs’, as they are known, indicate a fairly high alcohol content, which in Pineau’s case is usually about 17%.
The style most commonly experienced is pale gold, sweet and floral, reminiscent of tinned-peach syrup, rendered uncloying by a spirited kick. In older examples, imaginatively labelled Vieux (five years old) and Très Vieux (10 years old), the spirit mellows and richer prune, cinnamon and almond flavours develop. As it matures, white Pineau turns a dark golden colour with amber highlights
France's first fortified wine to enjoy Appellatioin D'Origine Control (AOC) in 1945, winegrowers and cellar masters have shaped this delicate wine by adhering closely to traditional production methods passed down through generations.
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HOW THE MAGIC HAPPENS
The rich, bold aroma of Pineau des Charentes is the fruit of unique expertise. For more than 4 centuries, our winegrowers and cellar masters have shaped this delicate wine by adhering closely to traditional production methods passed down through generations. The grape must and cognac eau de vie come from the same estate, the same vineyard, and are made by the same people. Their expertise is passed on from generation to generation.
The greatness of Pineau des Charentes wine lies in the five essential stages of its production.
Once the grapes have gorged themselves on sunshine and the aroma of the Charentes soil, they are picked from late September onwards. This process takes about one month.
The grapes are pressed: white ones as soon as they are harvested, and red ones after several hours of maceration, to give them the beautiful bright colour typical of Pineau des Charentes.
Next comes mutage, which is the addition of alcohol and the key component in the production process. Cognac eau de vie aged for at least one year and containing at least 70% alcohol is added to the grape must, to stop it fermenting and add sweetness.
Pineau des Charentes must aged in oak barrels. During this last phase, the wine acquires its last notes of aromas.
Pineau White is aged for at least 18 months, including 12 months in barrels, while Pineau Rosé and Red are aged for 12 months, of which 8 months are in barrels.
This patience pays off, giving Pineau des Charentes a harmony of distinctive and intricate aromas and a roundness and freshness on the palate. Its bouquet can be further enhanced by ageing in oak barrels for 5 or even up to 15 years, to create Old and Very Old Pineau des Charentes.
Because its AOC status is subject to very strict rules, Pineau des Charentes must be bottled in the region where it is produced.