Château de Beaulon, "Vieille Réserve Or” Pineau des Charentes 10-Year
Fortified Cognac Aperitif
Prepare yourself for one of France's most elusive and rare aperitifs: Pineau des Charentes.
Contrary to its name, it has nothing to do with Pinot Noir. Rather, this is a fortified wine from the Charentes region, of which Cognac is a part. It's what's called a "mistelle" in French – a special category whereby high-strength spirit (Cognac, in this case) is added to unfermented grape juice and aged.
The drink begins with fresh grape juice, blended with a special Cognac specifically for this edition. Once the flavors are married, the blend is then aged for an astonishing 10 years in small oak barrels, allowing the flavors to merge and develop slowly, producing a drink that's deep and complex, with salted almond, savory herbs, baked stone fruits, brioche, and a hint of the textbook rancio aromas so desired in fine Pineau. The finish is lightly sweet, with wonderfully developed savory flavors from its mind-blowing decade-long journey.
This is a true vin de méditation – while lesser Pineaux can be used in cocktails and mixed drinks, an aperitif of this caliber should be thoughtfully sipped lightly chilled, either straight up or over a large cube.
ABOUT THE ESTATE
Château de Beaulon's history traces to the burgeoning French Renaissance, with the construction of the manor beginning in 1480, taking some forty years to complete. The Gothic manor, with its blue springs (Fontaines Bleues), is a recorded historical monument. Organic agriculture and a deep respect for the surrounding environment guide their practices, including their treatment of this fine Pineau.
A little-known fact about Cognac is that many can be legally adulterated with what's called boisé: the addition of wood chips, boiled wood extract, caramel color, sugar, and inferior brandy to artificially deepen color and add hasten what's normally a lengthy, labor-intensive process. At Château de Beaulon everything is done slowly, the old fashioned way. It's more labor-and-time-intensive but ultimately worth it. They are true artisans of Pineau des Charentes, One of France's most vanishingly rare and delightful treats. Santé!