My Kind of Wine from My Kind of Place: Pineau des Charentes

A few years back, I was invited to travel through the Cognac region as a guest of the BNIC (Bureau Nationale Interprofessionelle de Cognac).

Cognac, the city. What do you know? Another beautiful place in France.

Cognac, the city. What do you know? Another beautiful place in France.

I knew I’d come away with a new-found appreciation for the famed spirit, but as a bonus, I got to know Pineau des Charentes.

Pineau des Charentes: A great apéritif from the Cognac region of France.

Pineau des Charentes: A great apéritif from the Cognac region of France.

What Is Pineau des Charentes?:  This wine-based apéritif is made mostly in the Charente and Charente-Maritime region (which is also home to Cognac.) In fact, most Pineau is made from the same wine grapes used in cognac, but while Cognac is a distilled spirit, Pineau is a fortified wine; that is, it’s made by adding a spirit (in this case, Cognac) to grape juice early in the fermentation process, which stops fermentation and keeps the wine’s sugars intact. The wine is then aged in oak barrels.
The resulting sip has the luscious density of port, yet brings bright, honeyed orchard-fruit flavors; think golden apples, pears and apricots.
How to Serve Pineau des Charentes: Of course, because it’s sweet, most Americans immediately assume it’s a dessert wine, and there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it that way. But for the French, Pineau des Charentes is an aperitif, a pre-dinner drink meant to open up the appetite for the pleasures to come. Try it this way, and you may find, as I have, that sweetness in that pre-dinner drink readies the palate for dinner much better than a dry, citrusy glass of wine.

Serve well chilled in small (3- to 4-ounce portions).

 

 

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