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The Favourite of Kings

You have to take notice when a grape varietal, in this case Pineau d’Aunis, was the favourite of the Plantagenet King Henry III, who imported French wine made from Pineau to England. The grape’s pedigree was further enhanced when a gift of these vines was used as a peace offering during the 100 Year’s War in 1425. The recipient was the Duke of Burgundy, or Phillip the Good. His name makes me wonder, was he just 'good' at boules or actually a good king? Either way, he must have been a very amenable fellow with great patience to wait the 5-7 years it would have taken for the vines to mature and prove their worth.

Well, Francois Chidaine, the French winemaking superstar from the Loire, got the message to pay attention to Pineau and decided to blend some into his Touraine Red. He never ceases to amaze me with the diversity of his wines and the sheer quality you get for the price tag.

Chidaine Touraine Rouge 2020 ($18) is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cot and Pineau d’Aunis. These three grapes harmonize as beautifully as the Three Tenors. The Cot gives the wine its backbone, the Cabernet Franc, its velvety fruit, and the Pineau, its delicate rose and mineral tones. Cot is another interesting grape, which must be managed well and cropped very low, or it will be far too tannic. Those who take the time to coax Cot along, however, are rewarded in bushels with a wine that has wonderful structure and tension.

At $18 a bottle, this wine is simply drop dead gorgeous and a ridiculous bargain. Give it a little air before drinking and serve slightly chilled. The nose is very different from the taste, with more fresh green notes. Then it explodes into black fig, blackberry, violet, dried rose petals, red apple, and plum skin in the mouth. This is a brilliant wine that is perfect for a BBQ with fresh vegetables and steak, sausages or lamb. Try it!!

Zwiri DAC Grüner Veltliner 2019 ($35). We have featured a number of grüners from this wonderful producer and this one is from a special plot in his vineyards. Fine yellow apple, subtle mango, honeydew melon, and nuances of orange zest are encapsulated in a steely freshness. Scintillating stuff. It tastes even better if you throw it in a decanter for 30 minutes before you drink it. Note on this: Don’t think this is pretentious rubbish. A lot of wines we quaff way too quickly and miss them at their best. It is always worth picking up a simple decanter. Riedel has a good one, and personally I find it so nice sitting down with friends and pouring from a lovely glass vessel.

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