Pinon, Domaine François et Julien
- Vouvray, Loire, France
Thank you to importer Louis/Dressner for this profile of the Pinon estate:
The wines of François and Julien Pinon are considered among the finest of Vouvray. François, a former child psychologist, took over the estate from his father in 1987, and has steadily made a name for the estate. He is a serious winemaker whose main focus is "to keep the typicity of both the appellation and the vintage" in all his wines. Julien's arrival has cemented the family's dedication to organic viticulture and minimal intervention winemaking.
The vineyards are in the corniche of the Vallée de Cousse. The soil is clay and silica on a base of limestone (tuffeau) with flint (silex) and the area is rated among the top sites in the appellation for Vouvrays of distinction and long life. The Pinon follow a discipline of plowing the vineyards, not using chemical fertilizers and pesticides and, of course, he harvesting by hand and uses not using cultured yeasts in the cellar. All new plantings are done by selection massale and no nursery clones are used; the vines are an average of 25 years old. The estate has been certified organic since 2011.
The alcoholic fermentation occurs in wood barrels. Then the wines are aged in stainless steel or foudres (big casks, about twice the size of barrique Bordelaise) to obtain a balance between fruit and reduction. There is one racking to remove the heavy lees and the wine remains on its fine lees until bottling, which takes place a full year after the harvest to “finish” the wine. Rather than use a large dose of SO2, Pinon prefers to gently filter his wines to ensure their stability and aging potential.
The two main wines of the estate are both meant to highlight the area's two distinct terroirs. The "Trois Argiles" cuvée, grown on heavy clay with limestone subsoils, is what is termed a vin tendre; the sweetness is between a sec and demi-sec. It has a delicate sweetness in the attack that gives over to a pleasant citrus finish with resonance and length. It has flavors reminiscent of apples and quince with a slightly spicy accent. This wine will continue to develop with age, but is affable and charming when drunk young.
"Silex Noir" is named for the black flint soils characteristic of two parcels totalling 3.7 hectares. Just like limestone, flint is left by ancient seabeds. Millions of shells and other organisms make up deep layers of limestone (or chalk), while more complicated chemical interactions between silica (contained in seawater) and organisms such as sponges created nodules of hard flint, which embedded itself into the limestone.
The other significant part of production are the sparkling wines (bottled brut nature and brut) produced from grapes on more neutral soils as well as the estate's youngest vines. The weather of the vintage will affect the amount of sparkling made each year: if it was a rainy year, the Pinon make more sparkling because in drier vintages, the grapes reach maturities more suited for still wines.
When the weather in September and October creates the right conditions for noble rot and/or passerillage (sun or wind-dried grapes), Pinon makes a whole range of Vouvrays: sec, demi-sec, moëlleux, and, more rarely, a grain par grain selection that results in a liquoreux.