I had the great pleasure of visiting this week Yvan Meyer and his family at Château d’Orignac, located in the Fins Bois appellation of Cognac, the largest of the six appellations that exist there. A short 50 km southwest of Cognac, and a quick 1 hour drive north from Bordeaux, Château d’Orignac resides on 20 hectares of terroir that consists primarily of limestone and clay. I was there to educate myself on Pineau des Charentes, the wine we represent from them and which is a definite “MUST NOT run out of” in our book!
The popularity of Pineau des Charentes for us at Woodberry Wine and Kindred Vines Import Company I believe can be attributed to three primary factors. First, the quality of work that our team has done over the years educating our customer base as to the existence of this great wine cannot be under-estimated. Relatively unknown outside of France, once people try it, they absolutely love it. Pineau des Charentes is a delicious, moderately sweet wine, with floral and honeyed accents that come from its time in the barrel.
Secondly, Yvan Meyer is a meticulous winemaker, and he produces a superior quality wine which exceeds all AOC guidelines for Pineau des Charentes. The wine ages for a minimum of 5 years in oak barrels, with sustainable farming practices and NO sulfites added. It has taken over 100 years for the cellar at Château d’Orignac to achieve the perfect humidity and environmental conditions that are perfect for aging wine. The integration of flavors, acidity and alcohol that Ivan is looking for takes time – and he is looking for that harmonious balance to accentuate the aromatic flavors that linger and linger in your mouth.
Finally, the wine is extremely versatile. In France, it is served primarily as an aperitif enjoyed before dinner and served chilled with cheeses, nuts, fruits (melon wrapped in prosciutto) and pâté. Of course, many people cook with it (try de-glazing your scallops with it – wow!, or added to your mussels next time you make them) and it is used in many interesting cocktails with rum, gin and rye as their base. It is an after-dinner star when paired with desserts like crème brulée, strawberry cheesecake, and dark chocolates. Once opened, it can be stored for months in the refrigerator.
Pineau des Charentes from Château d’Orignac is a vin de liqueur wine, made by blending estate produced Cognac eau de vie (unaged Cognac) with lightly fermented grape must (the juice, skins, and stems) pressed from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes which are grown on the estate. Adding the Cognac brings the alcohol content of the Pineau des Charentes to around 18%. The long oak aging adds the beautiful amber color and the aromatic nose. With Pineau des Charentes, the sweetness comes entirely from the grapes themselves as the AOC strictly forbids the adding of any sugar.
At the estate, Yvan and his lovely wife Coco led a tour through winery, showing the 1920’s era still where they double distill their Cognac. In the cellars we barrel tasted multiple vintages of Pineau des Charentes, learning to understand how the Pineau evolves in character over time. We tasted the 2016, 2013, 2012. 2010, and 2004 vintages. Ivan always blends multiple vintages together to get the perfect flavor profile that he is looking for in the wine with each new bottling. The aging time in Oak barrels for Château d’Orignac’s Pineau des Charentes is a minimum of 5 years, but often it is much older. The barrels that are used to age the Pineau can be used for many decades. Yvan commented, “economically, it makes no sense to age the wine as long as I do, but the result is far superior, and I want to make the best expression of Pineau des Charentes that I can.”
After a tour of the cellar and the distillery, Ivan introduced me to his father Hervé, his “unpaid” assistant at the Château. We had a small glass of Pineau des Charentes while waiting for lunch to be ready and then enjoyed a tremendous feast prepared by Yvan’s mother which consisted of oysters, foie gras, green beans, lamb, salad, and hearty French bread. It was an incredibly personal experience shared with Ivan and his family, and it was a definite highlight of my trip.
I learned a tremendous amount about Château d’Orignac and the family behind this incredibly delicious Pineau des Charantes. I look forward our team growing the brand further and to offering our valued customer’s, who want something really exceptional, some of their limited edition old vines and vintage Pineau’s. If you havnt tried Pineau des Charantes, from Château d’Orignac, you are will be in for a real treat when you do!
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