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François et Julien Pinon Pétillant Naturel Brut Rosé 2018

François et Julien Pinon Pétillant Naturel Brut Rosé 2018

The next instalment in this infrequent and irregular journey through the sparkling wines of the Loire Valley takes us away from familiar ground, away from the appellations most famed for sparkling styles which are led by Saumur and Crémant de Loire, although never overlook Vouvray and Montlouis. It also takes us away from Chenin Blanc, the go-to variety for most of the sparkling wines from these appellations. Well, as they say, a change is as good as a rest.

While the wine itself perhaps needs some introduction, this is perhaps not true of the vigneron responsible for it. François Pinon is one of the top names in the Vouvray appellation. His is a domaine I struggled to get to grips with in years gone by, simply because the wines were not listed in the UK, and François did very well sending much of what he made to the USA, imported by sensible merchants such as the late Joe Dressner. These days I have no such difficulties; not only do I have a good stock of older vintages put away, as evinced by last year’s François Pinon Retrospective, but I have also been able to call in on the domaine from time to time. Last time I was there, just a month or two ago, I stocked up with a selection of magnums and some of his newest cuvées. Like this one.

François et Julien Pinon Pétillant Naturel Brut Rosé 2018

These days François no longer works alone; his son Julien, who had carved out a nice career in urban planning in Lille, has recently returned home to help his father. This is reflected on the labels, which now declare (from the 2017 vintage onwards, or the 2015 vintage for the later-released pétillant cuvées) the source of the wines to be François et Julien Pinon. The just-released 2018 Pétillant Naturel Brut Rosé is one such wine (it does not declare a vintage on the label, but it is 2018).

It is not unusual for domaines in Vouvray to have a few rows of red varieties such as Gamay, Grolleau, Côt or Cabernet Franc. The wine was often used to make a simple rosé or red wine which the proprietor and his family could drink, or which could be poured for the pickers at harvest time. François and Julien have 0.38 hectares of Grolleau and Côt, and the François et Julien Pinon Pétillant Natural Brut Rosé 2018 is a blend of 50% of each. The fruit was fermented by indigenous yeasts, and vinified without any added sulphites, hence the naturel.

In the glass it displays a beautiful yet rather modest pink hue. I sense crisp summer fruits on the nose, raspberry and dried strawberry, together with pebbles and a little note of creamy vanilla. It feels fresh, bright and full on the palate, showing good volume through the middle despite the wine’s taut and lean feel. And it has a dry structure, framed by fresh acidity, with a long, dry, and lightly bitter finish. This is a wine that is charming, punchy and challenging. It’s a delight, great as a summer aperitif, or for sipping on a sunny summer afternoon. 93/100 (26/8/19)

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