Made in Charentais “not-only-Cognac”: the Pineau des Charentes
Pineau des Charentes is the sweet, strong fortified wine of the Charentais (Cognac) region of Western France. It is made by adding Cognac from the previous year’s distillation (or older) to fresh grape must of the current vintage.
Viticulture in the Charentes region of France dates back to Roman times. The first vineyards were planted in the Saintonge, and later spread southwards to the Aunis and Angoulême regions. The town of Cognac and the many ports along the Charente river became centres of the local wine trade.
Although nobody knows exactly how Pineau des Charentes came into being, legend has it that this was due to a fortuitous accident.
In 1589 – the year of Henri IV’s coronation – a winegrower is said to have mistakenly poured grape must into a barrel of Cognac. A few years later, when he needed to use the barrel for a particularly large crop, he discovered a pure, marvellous new drink. Pineau des Charentes was born.
Today, this fantastic drink is renowned the world over, and has become France’s foremost Appellation Contrôlée sweet fortified wine.
There are many varieties of Pineau des Charentes for you to enjoy: white (see the Plessis Pineau des Charentes), rosé, red (see the Trijol Pineau des Charentes), vieux (old), and très vieux (very old).
SERVING AND PAIRING SUGGESTIONS
Whether enjoyed with a starter or dessert, Pineau des Charentes is best served cold (8-10°C), in a tulip-shaped glass, to appreciate the wine’s full range of flavours and aromas.
Young Pineau makes an ideal aperitif, whereas a Vieux or Très Vieux Pineau is a perfect way to round off your meal.
Pineau is also great in cocktails, blended with fruit juice, tonic water and a few mint leaves.
A Vieux or Très Vieux white Pineau goes exceptionally well with foie gras, blue cheese, and goat’s cheese.
Chocolate dishes are especially enhanced by a Vieux or Très Vieux rosé. Rosé or red Pineau is a treat with strawberries.
Melon is also a much appreciated match with young white Pineau.
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