Pineau de Loir
PINEAU DE LOIRE
Pineau de Loire, the Loire variety “par excellence”, better known as Chenin Blanc to the rest of the world. Chenin Blanc is an undemanding variety with regards to the soil and climate.
If you ever thought Paris is the heart of France, then the Loire Valley must surely be its soul. This picturesque valley has often been described as the Garden of France. It has ancient castles and magnificent palaces overlooking the longest river (1000km) in France. This was where many of the aristocracy lived and the kings of France built homes for their mistresses in the 16th century.
Last Friday I presented a few selected wines we import from the Loire Valley, more specifically from a few Vouvray vineyards. We compared these wines with some of the rarest and best of South Africa. Vouvray has a worldwide reputation for its Chenin Blanc made in styles entirely dependent on the weather. These white wines which are always delightfully fragrant and tasty vary a great deal in detail because the climate from year to year differs as well as harvest and vinification differs from grower to grower. In cooler years the wines are drier and higher in acid and one sees an increase of sparkling wine production. In warmer years, the sweeter wines come into their own, often culminating in full sweet noble rot wines. Fruit, acid and sugar in balance of these Chenin Blanc wines are of utmost importance. The wines are aged in older big oak barrels to promote the fruitiness on the wines and not to impart too much tannin. The end result must be great wines with elegance. The cellars, in and around Vouvray, are housed in dug out tufa (volcanically boiled chalk) tunnels. Vouvray’s cellars and cave homes are particularly famous, the tunnels often being created by excavations for rock used to build the châteaux of the region.
The Chenin Blanc wines made in this region are made to last for at least 20 years, where as the top wines may even last 30 years or longer. It was beautiful to see how much these winemakers respect their vines, knowing them like their own children and with this respect they have, they achieve different results in their wines! This is not something that chemistry can create, but dedication, respect and passion!
Chenin Blanc is the most planted grape variety in South Africa; in fact, we plant the most Chenin Blanc in the world. We make a wide variety of styles of wines: dry white wines, wooded and barrel fermented full bodied white wines, noble sweet wines, sparkling wines, sherry, Cape White Port and we use it for base wines to make our best brandies with. A few of the oldest Chenin Blanc unirrigated and some even un-grafted bushvines are found in and around Malmesbury. Especially at Perdeberg where Lammershoek and the Sadie Family vineyards are situated. With these historic vineyards winemakers such as Eben Sadie, Craig Hawkings and Adie Badenhorst can reflect the unique terroir and Pardeberg’s naturalness and the essence of these vines. The oldest Chenin Blanc vineyard is in fact situated on the Sadie Family’s farm in the Perdeberg area, called Mev Kirsten and was planted I 1920.
There are few South African winemakers dedicated to Chenin Blanc wines: Jean Daneel, Teddy Hall and Bruwer Raats. I would also like to mention the Mullineux family from Riebeeck Kasteel who has been at the forefront of the Swartland’s terroir-focused resurgence, which defines their stylistic aspirations.
The wines I presented were as follows: Testalonga El Bandito – Craig Hawkings own wine, 100% Chenin Blanc, naturally fermented and has almost a “jura-style”, which is full bodied, rich, dry, minerally, simply sensational. Jean Daneel’s Signature, from vines grown in Napier, which reflects immense elegance and classic Chenin Blanc characteristics. We tasted the Sadie Family Palladius, an unfiltered and unfined blend of Chenin Blanc and mainly Rhone white Varieties, a wonderful experience to taste this world class wine with its smooth, curvaceous and very long finish.
From Vouvray, a few real gems from top producers such as Bernard Fouquet of Domaine Des Aubuisieres; Alexandre Monmousseau of Chateau Gaudrelle; Philippe Foreau of Domaine Clos Naudin and from Bejamin, the winemaker at Domaine Huet. We were constantly reminded of the unique terroir of Vouvray, with wines that has just started their journey to maturation, not nearly read to drink now, but promise to give their full potential in a few years time. We will watch them develop over the years, and perhaps one day sit around our table and share the fully developed joy and pleasures of these new comers in our cellar!