Pineau d’Aunis, Adonis, La Grapperie, 2005, Loire Valley

(13% Alc)

Reach out and touch meI’ve always liked the freaks, the misfits, those that are labeled “quirky”.  They’re not easily categorized and usually take some time to understand.

As wine consumers, we swim in a sea of decently made, yet entirely forgettable wine.  But sometimes a wine grabs you by the nuts and the mind at the same time.  A perfect clash of the visceral and the intellectual crashing together in a cataclysmic explosion.  And for a moment, you’re left speechless.

And so it was that I became haunted and couldn’t get this damn wine out of my mind.  It was like nothing I’d ever tasted made from a grape I’d never heard of:  Pineau d’Aunis (“Pee-no Doh-nee”).


Pineau d'Aunis Grapes

A native red grape to the Loire Valley, Pineau d’Aunis is known locally as “Chenin Noir”, and was once popular in the medieval times by English royalty, being a favorite of Henry Plantaganet.

Now there are some name similarities you’re seeing, but don’t get ahead of yourself now.  Neither belonging to the Pinot family, nor any relation to Chenin Blanc, she is a grape that stands in her own camp.  And it’s a bizarre camp; no doubt inhabited by all manner of circus freak and castaway that couldn’t be understood by the masses.  Sadly, the Pineau d’Aunis grape has fallen from grace.  Once planted all around the Anjou and Touraine region, the vines have mostly been ripped out to make way for the mainstream grapes, thus pushing her bizarre delights even further from the limelight.

And I get why, don’t get me wrong.   I serve this wine to ten people, and nine will be confused–and thats a frightening thought for a winemaker.  But maybe, just maybe, that one person will fall head over heels for it.  And never underestimate the power of one…

And that’s what happened when my nose innocently passed over the glass.  The needle on the record scratched and my eyes bugged out.  What the f?  Did I really just get a nose full of herbs and black peppercorns?  No, surely someone had mistakenly upended their spice rack in my bottle.  But no!  That’s her mysterious charm and this wine is all about the herbs, herbs, herbs (not unlike a large segment of the freshmen who inhabited my college dorm).

Renaud Guettier

Renaud Guettier

Renaud Guettier started the La Grapperie winery in 2004 with very little previous winemaking experience.  Today, he owns a mere 4 hectares of vines; everything is farmed according to organic principles and harvested by hand.

With a medium red color with hints of purple, the nose of the Adonis is richly aromatic.  Sage, peppercorns and violets dance across your nostrils like naked sirens, and lurking somewhere deep underneath, a hint of wild strawberry beckons.  Medium-bodied on the palate, the wine is super herbal, yet with an underpinning of wild red berries.  The fruit is tart and sour and tangos beautifully with the herbs, Matterhornmuch like eating a mountain-grown herbal salad thrown together by a high-alpine shephard and eaten within view of the Matterhorn.  The finish isn’t necessarily long, but while your mouth comes down, your mind kicks into overdrive, desperately trying to make sense of the wild flavors in the glass.

But you can’t make sense of it.  It is a freak.  A misfit.  A wine so strange that most people would quickly reach for something familiar to forget this bizarre detour ever happened.  But not me.  I’ll open the freak’s cage and set her free.  I love me a good misfit.


2 Responses to “A Taste Of: La Grapperie Adonis, 2005”

  1. Michel Tamisier says:

    Dear David,

    I read incidentally your paper about Pineau d’Aunis, which was the usual grape of the Loir Valley, like Gamay in Beaujolais, before phylloxera. The crop is fairly irregular, one year plenty, the following scarce, and therefore, it was discarded by local producers.

    With the right winemaking (short maceration of a few days, possibly in carbonic atmosphere) it produces a light wine, fruitjuice colorlike, with hints of fresh berries, and a very soft and delicate pepper tasting finale. With macerations of several weeks, pigeage and so on, it is possible to obtain a colorful and strong wine, with a harsh peppery taste, which may please to some baroque mouths. But this is against the character of the grape.

    To me, the Guettier 2005 is good, but the 2006 is far better, with the true character of the Pineau d’Aunis. It is a wine you think you could drink gallons without getting tired.

    Excellent dry chenin in 2007, le Pressoir de Saint Pierre, without any residual sugar left, which is very seldom.

    Sincerely. Michel Tamisier

  2. Hi Michel, I appreciate you writing in and sharing your thoughts on Pineau d’Aunis. I think the best place for me to try the 2006 is while looking our over the vineyards themselves. This must be arranged asap and I will contact my vineyard tour coordinator immediately. Perhaps you could meet me there? And the dry Chenin you mentioned? I say, yes, please.

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