François Pinon Vouvray Vendanges Tardives 1992
Over the years I have enjoyed returning to the moelleux wines of some of Vouvray’s greatest vintages. Years such as 1989 and 1990, not to mention 1996 and 1997, have quite a strong presence in my cellar. I have plenty of younger vintages too, especially 2003, 2005, 2009 and even some moelleux wines from 2016 and 2017 (yes, I am prepared to sit on them for a long time). Sadly, my cellar doesn’t go back any further than 1989, so encounters with older vintages – such as the 1921, enjoyed with Philippe Foreau a couple of weeks ago (full report to come) – are treasured moments.
Getting to grips with a region – and I been really getting to grips with it, getting under its skin, and trying to understand the land and its wines to the same extent as its vignerons do, if that’s possible – requires more than just an occasional dipping in for the great vintages though. There are plenty of other vintages worth exploring in Vouvray, such as 1995, and even the occasionally maligned 1993 vintage, the year in which Domaine Huet about-turned on its Cuvée Constance, later releasing it as the Le Haut Lieu Moelleux Première Trie instead – has yielded some good bottles over the years (not least that relabelled Cuvée Constance). One vintage to which you would probably not turn first, however, is 1992.
The 1992 vintage was, I think it is fair to say, difficult from the outset. The region had been decimated by frost in 1991, and the vines had a lot of pent-up energy to release. As a consequence the crop started off very large, with many Vouvrillons expecting yields in excess of 60 hl/ha, providing the vines with a challenge when it came to ripening the fruit. Sadly the conditions as harvest approached were far from amenable; it rained during September, and the rather generous crop was brought in rather slowly. That the crop was large in volume is still evident today, as it is not difficult to pick up wines from this vintage nearly three decades on. The rather lean juice made an excellent base for sparkling wines, while large volumes were channelled into sec and demi-sec cuvées. What nobody considered, of course, was trying to produce a moelleux cuvée.
Well, almost nobody. Having joined his father in running the family domaine during the 1980s, and having full control from 1987 onwards, François Pinon had been able to make the most of the 1989 and 1990 vintages, and was perhaps keen after the 1991 hiatus to produce another moelleux cuvée. He left some fruit unpicked, and then he waited. And then he waited some more. Eventually the grapes were sufficiently concentrated to clear the bar for moelleux, and François became the only vigneron in the entire appellation to produce such a cuvée in this vintage, and it was achieved without chaptalisation. The 1992 Vouvray Vendanges Tardives from François Pinon has 11.65% alcohol, a gentle yet impressive 48.7 g/l of residual sugar, and a rather fresh acidity which comes in at 4.72 g/l. In the glass, at well over 25 years of age, it is a delicately moelleux cuvée, with a pale golden hue. It presents a smoky, citrus-acid nose, with tart lemon and lime nuances and a knapped flint minerality which stands out against the light character of the wine. It follows up with a delicate citrus style on the palate, with lemon-lime acidity, very taut and vinous, with any overt sweetness now faded, leaving the palate gently off-dry at best, the sugar having aged to leave the palate vinous and sinewy, and framed by its acidity. Despite its rather lean style, with its delicate lemony freshness, the finish is long. It is a charming wine, but feels more like an aged demi-sec (or a much more ancient moelleux), then I expected, but it drinks very nicely provided you approach it in that frame of mind. 89/100 (24/6/19)
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