Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A Gateway to Brandy: Pineau des Charentes Chateau d'Originac

The evenings are closing in and the first Christmas departments have opened up in London (well, about 2 months ago in fact!)

 I'm looking forward to winter; I love huddling next to a fire in a jumper and thick socks, with a book, feasting on pate, cheese and game pie. Well who doesn't? You're already salivating now, right? I feel some alcohols really excel with winter foods and, as such, I have got a craving for brandy.

Now, Pineau des Charentes isn't exactly brandy, it's 'grape must' (the sweetest stuff out of grapes) and 'brandy eau-de-vie' (basically, clear fruit brandy) chucked together and fermented.

Red Pineau, such as the one I am talking about, is made from one or a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and is aged for at least 8 months in oak, with a minimum 14 month-long total ageing period. The Chateau d'Originac's Pineau goes above and beyond this, ageing for 5 years in oak casks, and uses Merlot and Cab Sauv.

On the nose there is oodles of grape and raisin ripeness - it's really nicely honeyed, with  a slight nutty, vanilla quality. This actually smells like a wonderful Christmas pud, it's wonderfully warming and comforting - you almost want to take a bite out of it.

On the palate, the Pineau is lovely and sweet, whilst not being cloying. It's effortlessly smooth and mouth-filling, with honeyed apricot and grape flavours. I truly love this as a nightcap in the long evenings, it's a fantastic alternative to whisky in that it is so soft and easy-going, plus it has the sweetness to go with your blue cheeses and desserts, and matches well with a duck pate.

With all this talk of winter it is easy to overlook the fact that Pineau is best served cold, and actually is a fabulous summer afternoon tipple as well - so there's something to look forward to. Also, for all those looking to get into brandy (like myself) I really see this as a nice and easy way to enter the brandy world, and see if it's the sort of thing you might enjoy.

Pineau des Charentes is quite rare in the UK without many stockists, however a bottle of the Chateau d'Originac can be picked up from The Wine Society for £15.50.

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