François et Julien Pinon Vouvray Frizzante 2018

This week’s Weekend Wine is something of a curiosity. A delightful curiosity, but a curiosity all the same. To explain why this is I first need to introduce you to one of the Pinon family’s most eclectic cuvées, not (at first glance) up for discussion here, one which goes by the name of Goutte d’Or.

The cuvée Goutte d’Or is one of the rarest of all the cuvées produced by the late François Pinon. While there are perhaps less commonly encountered labels, such as the Réserve Passerillé François produced from a handful of concentrated but non-botrytised bunches in the 1989 vintage (I don’t think this cuvée has ever reappeared in any vintage since – but do put me straight on this if you know different), none of these other labels set the heart aflutter like the words Goutte d’Or. Especially if you speak it in a dreamy French accent (try it).

The Goutte d’Or cuvée occupies a position at the very pinnacle of the Pinon portfolio, comparable to the (perhaps better-known) cuvée of the same name produced by the Foreau family at Domaine du Clos Naudin. The Foreau version only saw the light of day in 1947 and 1990, although these two vintages have in recent years been joined by 2011 and 2015. Chez Pinon, the Goutte d’Or cuvée was produced only in 1989 and 1990. In both cases the wines are made with predominantly botrytised berries, imbuing them with a more liquoreux style. And all, as I have already intimated, are rarely encountered.

Which is why, when I visited the domaine a few years ago, I was delighted to see François Pinon had decided to produced a Goutte d’Or in the 2018 vintage. Hurrah! I quickly ensured I added half a dozen bottles to my own cellar.

But what, you might ask, does this have to do with the 2018 Frizzante?

François et Julien Pinon Vouvray Frizzante 2018

As is the case with many domaines in the region (including some if not all of the most renowned), not to mention more than a handful of cru classé châteaux in Bordeaux, the Pinons contract out their bottling to a mobile bottler. The machinery arrives on an articulated trailer, and once parked the vigneron connects up the hoses, loads it up with the first of his or her bottles, and bottling begins. And this is exactly how the 2018 Goutte d’Or found its way into the bottle.

It was a few days later when François and Julien Pinon noticed that some bottles were pushing their corks out a few millimetres. An investigation revealed that there had been yeast contamination at a specified time point during the bottling, which meant that while the first few runs were fine, those bottled later in the day had been contaminated with yeast and were undergoing a secondary fermentation, hence the lifting of the corks. I am told some other Vouvray domaines (I can’t name them – I don’t want to put any noses out of joint) had similar problems with their bottling, presumably with the same bottler. Initially Julien resolved not to sell these contaminated bottles, but the refermentation turned out to be very delicate, and eventually the wine settled to a point of stability. And with that Julien resolved to sell it, under a different name. Frizzante.

And already having some of the 2018 Goutte d’Or in my cellar (although I confess I have not been brave enough to open one), how could I resist adding a few bottles of the ‘sparkling’ version?

In the glass the 2018 Vouvray Frizzante from François et Julien Pinon, poured from a 50cl bottle, presents a modest golden hue, it not yet having taken on the rich patina of age. The nose is gloriously fresh yet clearly richly concentrated, with layers of pressed apple, sweet peach and redcurrants, with light veins of black tea leaf, herbal tea and smoke, some of which suggest a healthy botrytis infection. While the nose speaks softly of freshness, the palate drives this home with a fresh and forceful conviction. Here it marries sweet peach and confit apple with a vivacious streak of acidity which gives this a brilliant sense of energy. Of course, the question you are asking is this; is it sparkling? No, not really. There is just a faint prickle of carbon dioxide to it, the subtle not-quite-pétillance you find if you taste a young wine at the end of the malolactic fermentation, and as a consequence I think Frizzante is a good choice of name for this cuvée (you certainly would not call it pétillant or mousseux). This little prickle works rather well, alongside the acidity, it balancing the wine’s dense and concentrated sweetness, which dances in a light-footed style across the palate, leading to a long and confident finish. All in all, this is a quite remarkable wine. Curious, but remarkable all the same. And a recommendation from me. The alcohol on the label 13.5%. 96/100

One of these days I will pull a bottle each of 2018 Goutte d’Or and 2018 Frizzante, and taste them both side-by-side. Maybe when they hit ten years of age? Just how different will they taste? Come back in 2028 to find out. (18/9/23)

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