DOMAINE JULIEN & FRANCOIS PINON
It’s a rare phenomenon that the Wine Spectator, The New York Times and The Robert Parker Guide are all in agreement, yet it’s a feat managed by Julien and Francois Pinon. Mentioned in the same breath as Huet by Asimov, considered benchmark chenin blanc by Wine Spectator and the producer of ‘ethereal’ wines according to Parker’s outlet. Happily, we can confirm, these are wines deserving of their praise.
Established in 1786, the estate of Julien and Francois Pinon has been built up over eight generations and now covers 13.5 hectares in the Vallée de Cousse. Today, father and son duo, François and Julien, continue the tradition of ‘old school’ winemaking with a contemporary edge, passed down when François took the reins in 1987. Leaving behind a career in child psychology, François took over the estate from his father, and focused on emphasising ecologically friendly vineyard and cellar practices. The family operation now includes his son, Julien, who also changed careers, from city planning, to join his father in the cellar. Sadly, Francois and his father both passed away in 2021.
The wines are recognised as some of the very best in the region, a reflection of the dedication of the family to their craft. To allow the rich and diverse terroir to sing, Julien and Francois committed to farming organically, with Ecocert Organic certification awarded in 2003. These practices include using organic treatments when needed and only in small doses, working the clay, limestone and flint soils mechanically and banning the use of pesticides.
The vineyards are mainly comprised of chenin blanc, grolleau and cot, over 14ha with an average vine age of 50 years. When the time comes, the grapes are hand harvested over three weeks, by a team of 30 to allow for optimal grape selection. As a result, the grapes come into the winery as pristine whole bunches. The first pick will always be the sparkling wines, followed by the dry, and then slightly sweeter wines. In special years when the conditions are right, botrytis affected grapes will be picked last to create the winery’s sweetest wines.
After being pressed, the juice is stored in large vats for 12-24 hours, while the solid matter settles to the bottom of the tank. When the juice is clear, ferment occurs without the addition of yeast. The wines are then housed in Pinon’s spectacular cellars, tunneled into hillside rock of the hillside, in a mixture of old oak barrels and stainless steel tanks to juggle the balancing act of still and sparkling winemaking. The wines remain on their fine lees until Easter. After one rack and a filtration, they are bottled over the course of April. Forget the chocolate eggs, we’d much prefer the Easter Bunny deliver these benchmark Vouvray to our door!