François Pinon Retrospective, 2018
I think few people would argue with an assertion that the finest wines of Vouvray come from the première côte, the sliver of vines that sit right on the edge of the limestone plateau, looking out across the very broad valley of the Loire. Here, from famed vineyards such as Les Perruches, Les Girardières and Le Clos some of the appellation’s leading names including Philippe Foreau, Bernard Fouquet, Vincent Carême and others tend vines in the appellation’s most prestigious parcels, the fruit grown here destined for their top cuvées.
I learnt long ago, however, that exploring further ‘inland’, away from the river, along the deuxième côtes, up the valleys and slopes around the Brenne and its tributaries, can pay dividends. One vigneron waiting for us here is François Pinon, whose wines are among some of the most exciting in the appellation. How does he manage to fashion such appellation-worthy wines from what appear to be, at first glance, lesser terroirs? I suspect the answer, in part at least, is that François understands and has embraced his position. He recognises the fact that the cooler climate here, and the older, colder limestones on which his vines are planted, naturally engender higher acidity, which he balances out with a little residual in the majority of his cuvées. François, in other words, makes real Vouvray, in a classic demi-sec or at least sec-tendre style.
As you might have guessed, these days I am a regular buyer and drinker of these wines. Of course, François makes sweeter wines too, which I have not featured that much in recent years, so I am putting this right here with a retrospective on some older vintages, ranging from 2003 back to 1989. I do have some younger moelleux cuvées tucked away in the cellar, in particular from 2005, 2008 and 2011, but for the moment I thought I should concentrate solely on these older vintages. There is nothing younger here that fifteen years of age.