François Pinon Vouvray Brut Non Dosé 2012 Sparkling Wine
Winegrower: Domaine François Pinon
Region: Vouvray (Loire) France
Grape: Chenin blanc
Available: November 2017
At Cellar Direct we’re always on the lookout for extraordinary sparkling wines of exceptional value, and we believe that Champagne does not have a monopoly on great bubbly. This always leads us to wines produced by passionate vignerons who farm their own small vineyards. These wines often drink at twice their price when compared to entry-level champagnes from famous houses. If you have an affinity for drinking Champagne you are aware of the cost of this pleasure. We’d like to offer some relief. Today’s wine represents extraordinary value and answers the question: “How can I enjoy the refinement, richness and pleasures of Champagne without emptying my wallet, especially during the holidays?” Today’s exceptional sparkler, from François Pinon of Vouvray, is like ‘Champagne’ in most ways but price: it’s only $28. Crafted from handpicked, organically grown grapes sourced from some of the finest vineyards in Vouvray, this is a serious blanc de blanc that you can afford to serve at scale. If you’ve got holiday parties planned, or have some client gifting to take care of, we can’t think of a better wine to recommend than this. Just make sure you keep a few bottles for yourself.
François Pinon, bearded, bespectacled and with a warm voice, comes across as a friendly, elderly academic. He has a medical background and had a successful career as a child psychoanalyst and professor before returning to his roots in 1987 to take over the family estate. François is one of the best winegrowers in Vouvray, the spiritual home of Chenin blanc and where it reaches its apogee, producing some of the finest and most long-lived white wines in the world. His vineyards, which are in the Loire Valley just east of the city of Tours in Northwest France, have been in his family since 1776, 15 generations.
François is a traditionalist. His guiding philosophy is simple: “add nothing and take nothing away from the grape’s potential.” But this entails extraordinary efforts in the vineyards; he works his 15 hectares, which are composed of clay and silica on a base of limestone with flint, by hand to strict organic standards. His vines range in age from 30 to 65 years. Yields are minimized through green pruning and ground cover grows between his vines. His wines are now considered in serious circles to be on par with those of Huet.
This Vouvray Brut Non Dosé is made in the same labor intensive, traditional way as Champagne. And like some of Champagne’s small, grower producers, François uses only wild yeasts for fermentation believing it’s impossible to taste terroir if you use the commercial varieties. He also avoids sulphur because he thinks the high acidity of his wines acts like a natural preservative. Primary fermentation occurs in large, old wood barrels. The wine is then blended 80% from the new vintage with 20% from previous vintages. The second fermentation occurs in the bottle and the wine rests on its lees (the spent yeast cells left over from the second fermentation in the bottle) for 18 months while it ages in the cool cellars carved out of the cliff behind his home. Most sparkling wines, including Champagne, are topped up with a little sweet still wine to determine their final level of sweetness. “Non Dosè” means this wine does not receive this added sweetener leaving it wonderfully bone dry.
François’ Vouvray Brut Non Dosé is a vinous revelation. Brilliant gold in colour it has a persistent, lively effervescence that delivers everything you could want from Champagne; its aromatics lush with apple, quince, honeycomb, biscotti and a potpourri of citrus and toasted bread. The fruit follows through on the palate along with a creamy weight and a flinty minerality, all evolving into something more complex and mouth-watering. And even though there’s no dosage it’s in perfect balance; deep and rich enough on its own while being refreshingly dry. It really is mind-blowing how much this wine over-delivers; I don’t just want it as an aperitif, I want it with food. Ditch the flutes and serve in Burgundy stems at 10˚ with fresh oysters, cheeses, foie gras, Serranoo ham, olives or for a match made in heaven with Melissa Clark’s delicious, simple and fast to prepare Hot Honey Shrimp.