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This offer is sad and joyous at the same time, celebrating the life of François Pinon, a great friend and a deeply intelligent, kind, humorous and generous man who I was fortunate to meet shortly after he took over the estate from his parents in 1987. Over 33 years he transformed Domaine Pinon into one of the finest estates in the Loire, and he was greatly respected by vignerons, wine professionals and wine-lovers around the world. François' son Julien has become a good friend as well and we look forward to thanking him in person for this wonderful tribute to his father's life and work...
(What follows is the importer's offer written by wine professional extraordinaire Juliette Pope, which capably describes the wines and vintages involved...)
"After his father François passed away suddenly last winter, Julien Pinon decided to open up the family cellar in tribute. These classic sweet Vouvrays have been not only impeccably stored — lying in the chilly darkness of the family cave, carved deep into the tuffeau hillside — but also meticulously inspected, bottle by bottle, by Julien for fill levels and cork quality. Additionally, Julien has opened every one of the oldest bottles, specifically the 1964 and the various 1989s, and tasted, topped, gently sulfured and re-corked them.
Some insight on categories and names: the Pinon residual sugar/liter ranges are generally around demi-sec 15-25 grams, moelleux 40-60 grams and liquoreux 100-150 grams. Under the moelleux and liquoreux headings, there are a few different wines, based on the nature of the grape bunches. The unctous liquoreux come about in two ways. One starts with nobly rotted fruit, named simply “Botrytis,” the rarest of these is the “drop of gold” or “Goutte d’Or," made only in Pinon’s two best vintages so far, 1989 and 1990. The other liquoreux path is via passerillage, wherein perfectly healthy fruit is dried on the vine by wind and sun. The most concentrated of these clusters become “Première Trie” or “best pass," the best of the rest yield the straight moelleux wines.
The eye-catcher below will inevitably be the 1964 demi-sec. It was a show-stopper for the Dressner crew in the Pinon cellar in February 2019. As if its apple-tarty richness, remarkable freshness and aged complexity weren’t enough, we got to experience it with its maker, Claude Pinon, François’s dad (who survives his son), along with François and Julien.
Next to draw your eye is likely to be 1989—considered one of the very best modern Vouvray vintages—and the near-equivalent 1990. Pinon’s 1989 “Réserve Passerillée” moelleux was a unique micro-lot of unbotrytized bunches that warranted six months of barrique time and emerged as a breathtaking potpourri of beeswax, graham crackers, sage and oregano. The 1989 “Botrytis” liquoreux is similarly exquisite with earthy noble-rot nuance. The 1990 “Botrytis” does not suffer by comparison, being simply a touch lighter on its elegant feet. While we Chenin lovers rightly go gaga over aged Vouvray, check out the younger vintages here. The killer 1996 “Botrytis” liquoreux sports a crunchy-apple, ginger-spiced deliciousness; the 1995 “Botrytis” comes from another excellent, balanced year. Hot vintages push our “uh-oh, low acid” alert buttons, but we know that Chenin has acidity in spades, and indeed it shows beautifully, if more extravagantly, in both of Pinon’s variations on 1997 and 2003. While I have not gotten to taste the 2005 and 2015 yet, both were stellar vintages, similar in being very warm, dry and lower-yielding. Don’t miss out on these limited and legendary library gems!" - Juliette Pope (David Bowler Wines)
We have tasted many of these wines over the years and can attest to their incredible complexity with firm acidities underlying the beautiful sweet fruit. We were lucky enough to taste the 1964 Demi-Sec in January 2020 in Angers - it's a great experience - please one bottle per person, at least for this first round. Thank-you Julien, and thank you François, we wish you were here to share these wines with us...
The re-release of the Pinon 2012 Brut Non-Dosé is drinking beautifully now, after 7-plus years on the lees. Even at my advanced age, I plan on cellaring a case of this very special wine for another ten to twenty years. Here is our original review: François and Julien Pinon make some of the finest sparkling wines in the Loire Valley. The superb Brut Non-Dosé comes from 45 year-old Chenin Blanc vines on Turonien limestone with topsoils of clay with silex. The fermentation lasts 4 to 6 weeks without added yeast or sugar. 2012 is a beautiful year for this wine as the bright fruit and firm acidity of the vintage contribute to the elegance and structure of this cuvée. The wine shows aromas of creamy lemon, pear, brioche, fines herbes and stone, with pear, green apple. mineral, herbal and bitter lemon flavors on the palate. The mousse is fine and refreshing and there is fabulous length of dried herbs, citrus pear and stone flavors on the finish. This very young wine will develop nicely in the glass and will cellar beautifully for twenty years or more - a few years ago we tasted a 1976 that was sensational. David Lillie