In its simplest terms, fortified wine is a wine in which a distilled spirit is added. It can be enjoyed neat, as an aperitif, digestif, or added to cocktails.
A wide range of fortified wines is produced around the world. Some of the more well-known are Port, Sherry, Marsala, Madeira, and Moscatel de Setúbal. Vermouth is also a fortified wine that falls into the sub-category of aromatized wines. Aromatized wines are flavored with spices, herbs, or natural flavorings. Fortified wines are available in many styles ranging from dry to sweet. And each style tends to have specific rules and regulations set by the country, region, or appellation it comes from. Specifications might include types of base wine allowed, aging minimums and styles, and what spirits are permissible.
I recently received two bottles of Pineau des Charente, fortified wines that drink beautifully on their own or as an added dimension to creative cocktails.
Pineau des Charente is a fortified wine exclusively produced in the Charente, Charente-Maritime, and Dordogne départements of France’s Cognac region. According to Comité National du Pineau des Charentes, Pineau is made with fresh grape juice must from the current year’s vintage and Cognac eau-de-vie – Cognac distilled for at least one year. Eau-de-vie translates to “water of life” in French. This blend is then aged in French oak barrels. If the wine is aged for five years, then the Pineau earns the designation of vieux (old), and if aged for ten years, it will receive the title of tres vieux (very old).
Pineau is produced in white, rosé, and red styles, with an alcohol content that ranges from 16-22%.
White Pineau is usually made from the traditional Cognac grapes, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and Folle Blanche. It is aged for at least 18 months, including 12 months in French oak barrels. Red and Rosé Pineau are made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, and aged for 12 months, with eight months in French oak barrels.
Vallein Tercinier Pineau des Charentes
This family has been producing Cognac for five generations, dating back to 1850. Recipes have been handed down from one generation to the next with “the focus on creating the most pleasurable experience in the glass.”
The grape juice must for this wine is 75% Ugni Blanc and 25% Montils, and the blend is aged for three years in French oak barrels. A lovely golden color opens to aromas of citrus, sweet fruit, and dried raisins. This smooth wine fills the palate with soft fruit, citrus, honeysuckle, and a long finish of almonds and candied lemon.
Château De Beaulon White Pineau des Charentes
Château De Beaulon is a family-owned estate dating back to 1712. As it states on the back of the bottle, “Château De Beaulon Pineau is produced today as it has been for generations. Faithful to the oldest family traditions passed on through the centuries.”
The grape juice must is made from Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc.
This fortified wine is gently matured in French oak barrels for five years, giving it the classification vieux (old). The color is soft amber with heady aromas of floral notes, apricot, and mandarin. It is fresh and smooth, with vanilla notes, dried fruit, honey, and nuts on the palate.
I love drinking Pineau neat, but I am looking forward to making Pineau des Charentes’ Signature cocktail recipes created by some very talented bartenders. You can find the recipes at https://pineauacademy.com
These fortified wines are intense, elegant, and made with love. They are gently sweet, allowing the palate to enjoy all of its nuances, including acidity and subtle oxidation. They are complex but so easy to drink!
Until next time…
Feature photo credit: Cognac.com