Have you noticed that most French wines don’t reveal the grape variety they use? With a few exceptions, notably Alsace, you’re expected to know what grapes the region favors. Burgundy? It’s Pinot Noir or Chardonnay! Bordeaux? Cabernet, Merlot, and maybe a couple more. In the Rhône and Provence, there may be up to 13 grapes in the blend, but we’re expected to know what they are.
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So the other day I picked up a pretty, light-red wine from the Coteaux du Loir, an out-of-the-way little region a bit north of Tours in the Loire Valley, but don’t let that look-alike name fool you: The Loir is a smallish stream, a tributary that runs into the larger Loire a few miles to the south.
Same region, same grapes, though, so I assumed that this wine was probably Cabernet Franc, Gamay, possibly Malbec (known in this region as Côt), maybe but not likely Pinot Noir, or most likely a blend.
So imagine my surprise when a quick trip to importer Kermit Lynch’s very informative website revealed that this wine was something far more obscure and, in my opinion, much more exciting: It’s 100 percent Pineau d’Aunis (“”Pee-no Doh-nee”), which sounds like “Pinot” but is another grape entirely.
Pineau d’Aunis is an ancient grape that was once so popular that history records it as a favorite of French King Henri IV and Britain’s Henry III Plantagenêt, who was king back in the days when English nobility was still more French than the French. Nowadays the grape is still just as good, but, supplanted by more commercial varieties, it’s just about as rare as the spotted owl. Made by only a handful of producers in tiny quantities, it produces a complex, subtle, light and rather low-alcohol red that typically shows intriguing scents of fragrant white pepper – white, not black, try it, you’ll see – and the fascinating stony minerality that the Loire region does so well.
If you’re hearing my love for this grape in these affectionate words, you are listening well. It is probably my No. 1 favorite offbeat, obscure variety. And sadly for me, it iss almost impossible to find. My past favorite, Puzelat Pineau d’Aunis “La Tesnière” Pineau d’Aunis, doesn’t appear to be made any more, to my great sorrow.
So I couldn’t have been happier to discover that Lynch’s import, Pascal Janvier 2015 Cuvée du Rosier Coteaux du Loir Rouge, is all Pineau d’Aunis, and it’s a brisk, white-peppery and mineral-laden pleasure to sip or serve with food, particularly dishes that meet its subtle aromatics with earthy flavors like truffles or goat cheese.
You’ll find my tasting report below, but before you get there, I’d like to hear if you’ve got a favorite offbeat, obscure and hard-to-find variety that you drink with delight when you manage to find it. If you’d like to talk about it, I’d love to have you post your favorite on either our WineLovers Facebook Page or on our WineLovers Discussion Group forum (WLDG).
Finally, we’re talking about all the red Loire grapes and wines in November’s edition of Wine Focus, our popular monthly wine forum discussion topic. Click November Wine Focus: Loire Reds: Cabernet Franc, etc, and bring your tasting notes, comments and questions about Loire Valley reds and other wines made from Loire red grapes around the world.
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Today’s Tasting Report
Pascal Janvier 2015 Cuvée du Rosier Coteaux du Loir Rouge ($22.99)
This wine of 100 percent Pineau d’Aunis grapes is a very light garnet color, almost bordering on a dark rosé. There’s nothing pale about the flavor, though, which is bright and fresh, cranberries wrapped in a fragrant cloak of aromatic white pepper. Tart cranberries dance with abundant white pepper on the palate, too, with plenty of fresh, food-friendly acidity, firm tannins, gentle 12 percent acidity, and a distinct sense of intriguing “rainwater-over-granite” minerality to lend flavor interest in a subtle but complex Loire red. U.S. importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. (Nov. 2, 2016)
FOOD MATCH: Subtle, acidic Loire reds like this will work with simple red meat, cheese and egg dishes, and earthy flavors like truffles or goat cheese make them sing. It was excellent with a lightly curried chicken salad with walnuts, working equally well with a batch made from locally pastured chicken and another made with Beyond Meat plant-based “chicken-free strips.”
WHEN TO DRINK: Our experience with another Pineau d’Aunis, from Thierry Puzelat, suggests that the variety will keep will for up to five years under good storage conditions. We’ve never let any last longer than that, but realistically, I would not put it down for long-term aging. Buy it, enjoy it over the next few years, and move on to the next vintage.
Limited listings on Wine-Searcher.com show a $20 average U.S. retail, a bit under my $24 price. Still, as an intriguing table red made from an obscure grape that I enjoy, it’s worth it to me to buy a bottle or two, if not a case.
Here’s a link to importer Kermit Lynch’s page about Pascal Janvier, with information about the producer and all his wines including Cuvée du Rosier Coteaux du Loir Rouge.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find vendors for Cuvée du Rosier Coteaux du Loir Rouge on Wine-Searcher.com
For more examples of the rare Pineau d’Aunis, page down on this info page about the grape on Wine-Searcher.com.
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