François et Julien Pinon, 2019 Update

If you were to draw up a shortlist of the leading domaines in Vouvray I suspect a good number of them, indeed probably the majority, would be those with vineyards on (or at least close to) the appellation’s première côte, the vines teetering on the edge of the plateau, looking out across the broad flood plain of the Loire. These are the appellation’s most renowned vineyards, with familiar names such as Le Mont, Le Clos, Les Perruches, Les Girardières, Le Peu Morier and Clos du Bourg, and the vignerons who tend vines in these lieux-dits have from the outset an immediate advantage.

Move deeper into the appellation, as an explorer might move deeper into the jungle, and such success stories – of either vineyard or vigneron – are much less frequently encountered. Many of the wines from the deuxièmes côtes of the valleys and hillsides set back from the valley of the Loire fail to inspire. Some wines are in the old-school style, firm and ungiving, woolly yet lean. Others simply underwhelm. But there are some noteworthy exceptions, of which my first (but not my only) choice would be François et Julien Pinon.

François et Julien Pinon

Working in a slightly cooler climate, and with vineyards on what he describes as the “older and colder” limestones of the Val de Cousse, François has long favoured a delicately demi-sec style, balancing the cool structures and nervous acidities of his wines with a touch of residual sugar, typically between 13 g/l and 18 g/l, but sometimes as high as 25 g/l. More recently, though, he has added a single-vineyard cuvée from the lieu-dit Les Déronnières which he vinifies dry. Well, dry-ish, with 8 g/l or 9 g/l being the norm for this wine. Chez Pinon, that’s dry.

My cellar is stacked with old vintages made by François, in particular 1989 and 1990, not to mention 1993, 1996, 2002, 2003 and numerous others, which is why I was able to publish a quite comprehensive (comprehensive to my mind, anyway) retrospective tasting of old vintages just last year. On this occasion I met up with François, and his son Julien (pictured above) who now works with him (his name is a recent addition to the label), to look at some more recent releases.

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