Tag Archives: Pineau des Charentes

pineau des charentes

Pineau des Charentes: Aperitif of Cognac

Pineau des Charentes is a sweet fortified wine produced in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments in France. It is a blend of Cognac and grape juice that is most often enjoyed as an aperitif.

The juice comes from grapes that are used to make wine. For white Pineau, grapes including Ugni Blanc, Colombard or Folle Blanche may be used; for red Pineau it may be Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. The high alcohol content of the Cognac prevents the grape juice from fermenting.

In its most basic form, Pineau is made by combining approximately 25% Cognac (eau de vie that has aged for at least one year in oak barrels), and 75% grape juice. The blend is then aged for at least 12 months. From the Comité National du Pineau des Charentes:

“Pineau des Charentes is exclusively aged in oak barrels. White Pineau ages for at least 18 months, including 12 in barrel. Red and rosé Pineau are aged for 12 months, including eight in oak. This ageing is a very important part of the winemaking process, and gives Pineau des Charentes its characteristic vanilla and nutty flavour.”

From there, Pineau can vary greatly among producers. Some may blend an older Cognac with the grape juice, and some may let the Pineau age in oak barrels for five or more years.

The taste of Pineau is sweeter than wine, with a pleasant and full mouthfeel. The acidity and alcohol prevent it from being too syrupy. Pineau that has spent more time aging in barrels tends to be more complex in flavor.

Pineau ranges in alcohol from 16 to 22 percent.

Pineau should be served chilled and in a tulip-shaped glass. It is commonly served as an aperitif, though it can complement a range of foods and desserts. Pineau may also be used in cocktails.

For more information on Pineau des Charentes including serving suggestions visit the website for the Comité National du Pineau des Charentes.

Chateau Beaulon water

A Visit to Chateau de Beaulon

About 30 miles southwest of Cognac in the commune of Saint-Dizant-du-Gua in Charente-Maritime is Château de Beaulon.

The château was built in 1480, with eau de vie production on the estate dating to 1720.  From 1543 to 1574 the home belonged to Francois de Beaulon, Lord of Saint-Dizant and advisor to the Bordeaux Parliament.  Today the estate is owned by Christian Thomas, who has been producing Cognac and Pineau des Charentes at Château de Beaulon for more than 40 years.

The grounds of Château de Beaulon are open to the public and well worth a visit.  Past the banana tree, past the row of lavender in the French garden, past the more wild English garden, you come to a sight that takes your breath away – “Les Fontaines Bleues,” natural springs that are a mesmerizing blue color.

The hue is due to a type of algae that grows in the water.  These springs have been the subject of local legends, including one about a monster (now pacified), that used to pull curious people down into the depths.

Winding back through the mammoth plane trees you come to the north face of the château.  Of note are the two different roof windows.  The window on the left was built in the style of medieval architecture, while the right window was built in the classical style.

Beaulon’s production and aging facilities are a short drive away in the neighboring commune of Lorignac.  Floor-to-ceiling windows at the distillery show off the gleaming copper stills.  Eau de vie is stored in a cellar across the street.

Nearby is Château de Beaulon’s recently completed state of the art aging and bottling facility.  Here, in rooms that look like science labs, the eau de vie is analyzed to determine its potential and direction.  A large concrete cellar offers a contrast to the one by the distillery, lacking the cobwebs and black fungus that thrives off the evaporating alcohol.

The new facility was designed to be eco-friendly as well.  The roof is covered in vegetation that helps to maintain a cool interior temperature.

Surrounding the distillery and two cellars are Château de Beaulon’s vineyards.  Unlike many Cognac houses, Beaulon does not use Ugni Blanc grapes for its Cognac.  Instead Folle Blanche, Colombard and Montils are used.

For a taste of Château de Beaulon’s Cognac, I was invited to join Mr. Thomas inside the manor.  We started with a Pineau des Charentes, a blend of Cognac and grape juice (click here to read more about Pineau des Charentes).  For its white Pineau, Château de Beaulon uses Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grape juice.

The Pineau was the perfect complement to the sunny and warm afternoon.  It had flavors of dried apricots, vanilla, honey and white flowers, with a pleasant sweetness balanced by nice acidity.

Next we tasted two Cognacs: the Tres Vieille Reserve du Château, vintage 1983, and the XO Vintage 1975.  Both were extraordinary.  They were elegant, complex and well balanced, with flavors that lingered for quite some time after each sip.

The vintage 1983 was rich and intense, with layered flavors of candied fruit, spice and fresh flowers.  The vintage 1975 had a beautiful amber color, with notes of orange peel, dried apricots, cedar, caramel and walnut.  Extremely smooth, both would turn any non Cognac drinker into a fan after one taste.

From the dazzling natural springs to the exceptional Cognac, a visit to Château de Beaulon is a feast for the senses.

For more information visit chateau-de-beaulon.com.

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