Standing on the slopes overlooking the village of Bué, not too far from the town of Sancerre, everywhere I looked there were vines. The vineyards radiated life and energy, the leaves still a verdant green despite it being October. The vines were sucking up every last ray of the autumn sunshine as they soldiered on, valiantly ripening their fruit, somewhat against the odds at this late stage. They did not have much time left to do their work though; the harvest was now well underway, as was evident from the swarm of pickers moving with great speed through the vineyards, stripping each one clean of fruit as they went. Once finished, they and their harvest all piled into a waiting convoy of vehicles to deliver the fruit to the cellars, before moving on to the next parcel of vines.
One of these little convoys caught my eye; like all the others the predominant vehicle was the ubiquitous white van, but one vehicle in this convey was different; sandwiched between one white van and the next was a small Citroen Méhari. While not one of the truly iconic cars of France, less instantaneously recognisable than the Citroen 2CV or Citroen Traction Avant, the Méhari is still quintessentially French. Utilitarian, with a plastic body and loose-fitting canvas roof, it was for many years widely used by the French army, this perhaps being reflected in the range of available colours, which included beige, beige and beige (and green), and not a lot else. Nevertheless this particular model was not being driven by a member of the French Foreign Legion, on secret assignment in Sancerre, but was clearly being pressed into service to ferry both pickers and grapes around.
I had watched the convoy disappear behind a hill but then, suddenly, it reappeared over the crest, and it was soon upon us. And who should lean out of the window of the lead van but Vincent Pinard (pictured above). I was secretly disappointed that he wasn’t being chauffeured around in the Méhari, like some dubious dictator, but that would appear to not be Vincent’s style. Now something of an emeritus vigneron, he is still actively involved in the running of the domaine that bears his name but today this responsibility is shared with his two sons, Clément and Florent, who were down at the cellars overseeing the arrival of each new basket of fruit. There was no time to chat though; although the weather was good, there had been rain, and rot was a real threat to the thin-skinned berries. Vincent and his team, complete with his Méhari-driving pickers, were on their way just as quickly as they arrived. It had been a fleeting encounter with one of Sancerre’s leading vignerons.
Vincent Pinard and his two sons share a winemaking heritage that can be traced back several centuries in and around Bué, and their family tree begins in the early years of the 17th century, long before the French Revolution rocked this nation, and well before the slopes around Sancerre were carpeted with Sauvignon Blanc. This profile looks first at this family’s long history in the region, before I move to examine the domaine and its vineyards, and of course the wines.