Our Tasting Impressions
Certainly this is a novelty - 10 year old sparkling off-dry red - but we didn't buy this just to be cute. We were blown away by this gorgeous wine. Forget cheap Lambrusco (we love the good stuff) and sparkling Shiraz with cute animals on the label, this is a seriously hand-crafted wine with a remarkable juxtaposition of maturing fruit and tangy, bubbly pop. It drinks drier than its Demi-sec label.
About this wine
Pineau d'Aunis from 10 year old vines in the Department of Sarthe comes this off-dry, sparkling red wine. The soil is limestone and clay. Yields are 45 hl/ha. The juice macerates for 15 days in tank with no malolactic fermentation before aging in tank on the fine lees for 3-4 months.
Tirage (addition of yeast, wine & sugar to achieve secondary fermentation) is done before racking the bottles for 9 years to allow the mousse to develop more finesse. Disgorgement and dosage complete the process.
About the grape
Pineau d'Aunis is a dark skinned grape that is indigenous to the Central Loire Valley dating back to the middle ages. Royalty in France and England cherished it from the 13th to 15th centuries. It has a light color and mild pepper flavor that makes it popular for rosés in many regions but it also has a subtle complexity and low alcohol to produce interesting and uncommon reds.
On Your Table
This makes for a great aperitif or keep some for after dinner with fruit, chocolate or desserts with either. Serve chilled at 46-48°.
The Gigou family operates their quaint 13 hectares farm in the central northern reaches of the Loire Valley - not far Le Mans, home to the famed 24-hour auto road race. Joël started the estate in 1974 along with his gracious wife Sylvie. His son Ludovic now handles much of the management and his sister Dorothée has recently joined in the efforts.
Their vineyards lie in Jasnières (8ha) and Côteaux du Loir (5ha), two fairly obscure appellations that might have faded into oblivion if not for the fine wines and tireless promotion from this family.
The vineyards in Jasnières are planted to Chenin Blanc to produce all but one of their whites, including a sweet Chenin in vintages when botrytis (noble rot) occurs.
Gamay and Pineau d'Aunis (and the Chenin for one white) is planted in Côteaux du Loir to produce their reds and rosé. They also produce sparkling wines in all three colors that are not appellation specific. The range of wines is extensive despite producing only about 40-50,000 bottles per year. There are lots of old vines.
They farm without chemicals. They harvest 60% by hand and 40% by machine (for the white grapes with stems left intact).
Now the remarkable part, Ludovic told me they keep all their bottled wines in their cellar for at least one or two years. I asked why they do this (wondering how a small estate can defer the revenue). He replied, The wine decides when it's ready. In some cases, he would hold them back even longer, except they are often out of storage space. Truly a portrait of a family whose prime concern is that the wines that bear their name are special.