Old Vintages of Domaine de la Chevalerie
Holiday Wines from Devenish

Incredible wines from Julien Pinon in Vouvray

Incredible wines from Julien Pinon in Vouvray

Some of the Best Chenins I've Ever Had

Domaine Pinon Vouvray

Visiting Julien Pinon earlier this month was incredibly moving for me because I love the wines so much but also because they’ve had a hard couple years. Julien’s father passed unexpectedly in January 2021 and then a few months later a late frost destroyed the buds on 95% of the winery’s vineyards. The wines of Francois and Julien Pinon have long been important moving wines and rank among the wines that set my standards for expression of not just a place but also a history and culture and a particular family. Like Domaine de Chevalerie these wines are incredibly well crafted and moving even if you aren’t aware that the Pinon family has been here making wine since 1786. They’re important because they’re some of the most exciting wines made in Vouvray as well as because they look back and are a direct link to why Vouvray exists as a famous appellation.  
So getting to see the caves and talk to Julien about the new wines he is making felt special and important beyond just learning about wine. We received a pallet that I had ordered months before just as we returned to the US. When I placed the order I was offered 2021 Vouvray Sec at a higher price than usual since Julien had used his tiny harvest to just make that 1 wine and had had to raise the price to make ends meet, or the 2022 was just coming available and would be at a more normal price. I jumped at the 2021 to support the Pinons. I’m glad I did because it’s one of the greatest dry Chenins I’ve ever tasted.

Blurry, but this is totally my favorite shot I took of Julien. They have bottles here going back to the early 1800s. Julien has tasted a lot of them over time as he’s recorked them! It must give him quite a perspective on the historical evolution of Vouvray.

Francois Pinon, Vouvray Sec 2021
“Sauve du Gel”
Approximately $32/btl
20 cases came to Maine. You can find it retail at Maine and Loire, Bow St Beverage, Meridians, and Best Wines

2021 was a terrible year for the Pinons. Francois passed away and then an early bud break/late frost destroyed 95% of the buds on the grape vines. When that happens the vines will grow more leaves and be fine and healthy, but they won’t produce any flowers or grapes. So Julien still had to maintain the vines and work the vineyards to keep them healthy, but in the knowledge that he would have virtually no grapes to work with: ouch! He collected the few grape clusters that had survived here and there and made a bit of sparkling wine and this one dry Vouvray, hence the name '‘Sauve du Gel” which translates as “Saved from the Ice”. Those vines sure concentrated their effort into the few grapes there were because this is show stopping! Julien had to raise the price to help make ends meet but it’s once of the greatest dry Chenins I’ve ever had and I’m so glad I could get some of it. When I tasted it it was good when I opened the bottle but really came into it’s own with some time to breathe; sort of to be expected with a complex wine that was just shipped internationally.
Aroma: Beautiful concentrated zippy apple; ripe but not cooked smelling. It’s tart and racy and so vibrant! White rose, preserved lemon, and lemon peel. There’s some rich white peach, in the background there's also a creamy aroma- in behind all the fresh vivid fruit. There's also a facet of the aroma that smells like wildflower honey in its pretty and beguiling way, not big and sweet, but concentrated and luxurious
Taste: wow. This is pretty incredible. It's painful knowing that Julian lost 95% of his crop, but the wine that the vines managed to produce is just off the charts. It's racy and electric, friendly and light on its feet, uplifting and thirst quenching, and then has such lovely rich white peach and tart Clementine orange. How you can fit this much flavor, this much fruit, this much acidity, this much minerality, all into one wine that's only 12 and a half percent alcohol just staggers me. It has such racy acidity and then the mid palate is honey but then flinty and then the finish lingers…..wow.

Here’s a video of Julien talking about the soil in Vouvray, the AOC rules, and what he’s doing to try to prevent frost damage to the buds.

Francois Pinon,Vouvray Pétillant Brut NV
Approximately $31
14 cases came to Maine. You can find it retail at Blue Hill Wine Shop, Now You’re Cooking, Maine and Loire, Sawyer’s Specialties, and Milk and Honey

Julien makes this Methode Traditionelle sparkling Vouvray from slightly earlier harvested grapes across their holdings. These grapes with slightly higher acidity are hand harvested and then ferment for 4-6 weeks with native yeast in neutral barrels and then gets racked and spends 2-3 months on the fine lees. It gets a light filtration and is then bottled to go through a secondary fermentation in the bottle. It spends about 2 years aging in the bottles before getting disgorged and has a dosage of 6 grams. In some vintages it has a bit of residual sweetness but I don’t notice any in this bottling of the wine.
Aroma: Apple blossoms, apple, a little bit of baked pie crust, fresh lemon zest… a little bit of toasted bread. It smells focused and bright, zippy and toasty, warm and delicious. Very springy but serious and classy. I feel like I should have a white napkin to clean my mustache as I drink this
Taste: juicy and rich, the bubbles are very fine and gentle, it’s mouth filling. Lemon and tart orange, but it's not overly citrusy, more fresh and fun tasting. It has a roundness and richness that balances it, more so than the still Chenins. It's just so effortlessly integrated and delicious

The Pinon cellars and tasting room are all in caves cut back into this limestone cliff face. They’re up in the valley de Cousse, in the northern part of Vouvray. It’s definitely more rural here and we drove past more woods, wheat fields, and cows than vineyards on the way here.

Francois Pinon,Vouvray Trois Argiles 2018
Approximately $30/btl
31 btls Available. Find it Retail at the Lost Kitchen, RSVP, Sawyer’s Specialties, Alna General Store, Maine and Loire, Blue Hill Wine Shop, Hops and Vine, and Stompers
Trois Argiles comes from 3 parcels that are on clay rich soil and comprise 3.75 hectares. The vines are about 35 years old, the grapes are hand harvested, and then ferment with native yeast in old wooden vats in their subterranean cellar. The fermentation goes on.... and on because it's so cold. After 2 or 3 months the fermentation can't go any further because of the alcoholic content and cold temperature, but the wine isn't actually dry yet. There is a bit of residual sugar here, but it's intentional. The soil of these vineyards produces grapes with such intense minerality and acidity that the Pinons think the wine has to have a bit of residual sugar in order to be truly balanced. And after enjoying this show stopping dramatic wine I totally agree.

Aroma: tropical, sunny, salty, some pineapple, some mango, yellow peach....really ripe lemon - like cooked or candied lemon. But this doesn't smell sweet! It smells like fresh zippy fruit, like stones: wet stones in a cool river

Taste: off dry; yes there's some RS on the midpalate, but it has so much acidity and delicious saltiness on the mid palate that it needs that touch of RS. It's so well balanced and fresh and here right now! The salt is really what lingers after I swallow. There's honey and quickly seared ripe yellow peaches. The sweetness on the mid palate has a bit of a caramelized character to it and it helps create that perception of cooked or roasted/toasted fruit. This is such a show stopper; there's just nothing like serious ripe Chenin.

Julien in one of their vineyard parcels up above the cellars. The cellars are basically down under those trees to the right of him.

Francois Pinon,Vouvray Le Bon Pinon 2020
Approximately $32
14 cases came to Maine. You can find this retail at The Blue Hill Wine Shop, Alna General Store, The Cheese Shop of Portland, and Milk and Honey
Julien Pinon calls this an "anachronistic cuvee". This cuvee had been made by his grandfather, but then his father stopped making it. Now, 30 or so years on Julien has resurrected it as a tribute to the generations before him. The grapes come from the family's oldest vineyard: planted by Julien’s great grandfather back in the 40s on a steep slope rich in black flint. The oak casks it ages in were originally used port casks purchased by Julien’s grandfather. The grapes are hand harvested, ferment in old wood vats in their cool subterranean cellar, and then after an extended aging on the fine lees it's bottled. The label was used by Julien’s great grandfather Camille for this wine back in the 50s and Julien likes the sort of comical name “Buvez du Bon Pinon” which means “drink some good Pinon”. These grapes usually go into the Silex Noir Vouvray, but in 2020 there was a drought and the water stress kept the vines from producing enough sugar to make a demi sec, so Julien took the opportunity to create this incredible dry Vouvray instead.

Aroma: leafy, minty, lemongrass, lemon juice and orange. It's a fresh nice green growing things outside right after a clean rain sort of a smell, vivid clear and clean and racy smelling!

Taste: racy poised acidity, definitely citrus lemon and white grapefruit and passion fruit. It's heady and the aroma sneaks back up into my olfactory from having it in my mouth. Wow, the mid palate is round and sort of mouth filling but the finish also has edgy lemon sorbet flavor. This is lovely, focused, sort of nervy, but richly textured Chenin; definitely one of the best dry Vouvrays I've had.

Julien is an avid gardner and had things growing all over the place out of everything! I loved this bench shaded by a lilac bush

It’s hard to make out but here Julien has several lemon and orange trees, a fig tree, and grape vines. The citrus trees are all potted and get taken inside over winter.

Tronconic oak vats for aging of some of the Vouvray cuvees.

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