François Pinon Vouvray Brut Non Dosé 2012 Sparkling Wine
Winegrower: François & Julien Pinon
Region: Vouvray (Loire Valley) France
Grape: Chenin blanc
Shipping: September 2018
Veteran followers of this site will recognise today’s wine because we eagerly look forward to offering it at least once a year. At Cellar Direct we have specific goals. We look for wines that are rare and hard to find or have a level of quality that far exceeds their price points. But probably more than anything, we like to offer insider wines that sommeliers and wine geeks seek out. Today’s wine connects all three of these dots. It’s rare and difficult to find, offers excellent value, and it addresses the perennial question that torments all true wine lovers, “How can I enjoy the precision and finesse of handmade Champagne without breaking the bank?” This wine is the answer.
“sharply focused, offering brisk citrus and dusty mineral flavours that gain richness with air... dry, with noteworthy finishing clarity and lingering minerality… very flexible at the table.” - 90 pts Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
François Pinon and his son Julien live in the small, rural town of Vernou-Sur-Brenn in Vouvray. They are passionate vignerons who farm their own small vineyards, and their sparkling wines drink way above their price point 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. Today’s exceptional sparkler is like ‘Champagne’ in most ways but price: it’s only $35 (in the US – when you can find it – it's upwards of $40). This wine demonstrates that really low residual sugar is totally compatible with Vouvray Chenin blanc and its succulent ripe fruit expression, in this instance of quince, pear, and passion fruit. Its sense of minerality by way of alkaline, wet stone, and saline traces does not lack here, and the whole is wrapped in narcissus floral notes and hints of bee’s wax and lees. 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 enjoy by yourself or afford to serve at dinner parties.
François Pinon had a successful career as a child psychoanalyst and professor before returning to his roots in 1987 to take over the family estate, and he now works with his son Julien. 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 1786.
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. François’ vines are up to 70 years in age, yields are minimized through green pruning and ground cover grows between his vines.
François’ Vouvray Brut Non Dosé is made in the same labor intensive, traditional way as Champagne. And like some of Champagne’s small, grower producers, he 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 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 four years 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 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 are beautiful and complex, lush with apple, quince, pear, passionfruit, 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. This is one of the finest non-Champagne sparkling wines you can find. Forget the flutes and serve at 8˚ to 10˚ in Burgundy stems to further bring out the aromas. Serve as an aperitif or with fresh oysters, or for a match made in heaven with Melissa Clark’s delicious, simple and fast to prepare Hot Honey Shrimp.