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According to one legend, Pineau des Charentes is not only the fruit of the vine, but also of luck. In 1589, when Henry IV came to the throne of France, a grower in Charentes, during the harvest, accidentally tipped grape must into a barrel containing cognac eau de vie. He subsequently stored the barrel away in the cellars of the lord of the manor.
A few years later, as a result of a bumper harvest, he found himself short of a barrel. Much to his surprise, he found that the precious barrel contained a marvelous brew, limpid and as full of sunshine as the land of Charentes. The Pineau of Charentes was born.
Pineau des Charentes is regulated by an AOC or Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée which maintains the high quality of the product.
More about Pineau des Charentes from Pineau Academy, officially the Comité National du Pineau des Charentes (CNPC).
Once grapes have soaked up the sun and the aromas of the Charentes soil, they are picked from late September onwards. This process takes about a month.
Grapes are then pressed: white ones as soon as they are harvested, and red ones following several hours of maceration, giving them Pineau des Charentes’ typical bright color.
Next comes the key component of production process called mutage, consisting in adding alcohol to grape juice. Cognac eau de vie aged for at least one year and containing at least 60% alcohol is added to the grape juice in a 3 to 1 ratio, to stop fermentation.
Pineau des Charentes must age in oak barrels. During this last phase, the wine acquires its final aromas. This patience pays off, giving Pineau des Charentes its distinctively harmonious aromas, roundness and freshness on the palate.