21 September 2010

even the losers: pineau d'aunis

Image swiped from lastfm.com.

Even the most celebrated grapes of the Loire - Sauvignon by a mile, with an honorable mention to Chenin, although the latter is more interesting - tend to be considered runner-up or alternative wines by the drinking public. (C.f. the discouraging number of drinkers you meet who profess to love Sancerre primarily because it's not Chardonnay.) This is fine by me, since it keeps prices down. At least relative to white Burgundy, or (red) Bordeaux.*

But dig a little further and you find a whole other realm of obscurity in the Loire, bizarre little village grapes like Cot, Grolleau, Romorantin, Gros Plants, and the subject of this post, Pineau d'Aunis, the name of which grape seems to really beg for a good anagram**. 

Image swiped from lagrapperie.com.

Had you asked me a few months ago, I would have told you that many of the above loser grapes were, in my experience, straight from the Aligoté school of pleasureless oddity winemaking. I'm in the midst of revising this opinion, though, motivated largely by two terrific Pineau d'Aunis-based wines I've had lately.

1. 2008 "Le Gravot," by 
Renaud Guettier

Renaud Guettier is a relatively young Loire winemaker, who released his first wines in 2004. Almost all of his red production is Pineau d'Aunis, the vines an average age of 70yrs. "Le Gravot," which he describes on his website as a summer wine, is 70% Pineau d'Aunis, the rest being a blend of Gamay, Cot, and Grolleau. It's a lithe, savoury, dark-cherry thing, surprisingly long on the palate. A discreet crackle of secondary fermentation - sometimes perceived as a flaw - here shows up in a supporting role, highlighting the freshness in what would otherwise be a slightly brooding wine. 

2. 2009 "Poivre et Sel," by Olivier Lemasson

Image swiped from serial-bottler.com.
This is the 2008 but the label remains roughly the same.

A brilliantly-named and brilliantly-packaged wine. Lemasson - a former sommelier and caviste, now Touraine-based organic négociant - accents the peppery qualities of Pineau d'Aunis, complementing them here with 50% Gamay. Being younger, with greater Gamay content, "Poivre et Sel" is significantly sharper and lighter than "Le Gravot," with a keen immediacy to its red-fruit / white pepper attack. 

The overall impression I'm receiving of Pineau d'Aunis, from these remarkable versions, is something like a darker, rootier, spicier, less cheerful Gamay. If the brighter, treblier, and generally more classic Gamay could be considered Pavement, Pineau d'Aunis would be the Silver Jews: stylistically related, but more ominous, deadpan, densely allusive.

As you may have gathered from this post, this post, or this post, I really dig Gamay - and Pavement, actually - but it's always good to diversify.  

*The famous pleasures of which, I'm convinced, will soon be known only to Russian oligarchs and Chinese mobile gaming moguls. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with these demographics. I'm just jealous. 

**(The best I can come up with is "U penis in a Audi.")

"Le Gravot" is currently available at: 

Au Nouveau Nez
114, rue Saint Maur
75011 PARIS
Metro: Parmentier or Saint Maur
Tel: 01 43 55 02 30

"Poivre et Sel" is currently available at: 

Le Verre Volé
38, rue Oberkampf
75011 PARIS
Metro: Oberkampf or Parmentier
Tel: 01 43 14 99 46


  1. Hi !
    i recommand you to have a taste of the Pinot D'aunis of Patrice Colin, in coteaux du vendomois. You can find some bootles at Julhes Paris 75010.

    Nicolas Jammet

  2. thanks nicolas! i'll keep an eye out for it next time i'm in that neighborhood. more importantly, can you describe it in terms of a pop song?