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December 3, 2018

Got Pineau?

Over the summer I had the opportunity to attend a Pineau des Charentes tasting at Lucques in Los Angeles. And I can confirm that I had no idea what Pineau des Charentes was before this MasterClass! But, I am VERY glad I went as I am now looking to integrate Pineau in my cocktailing wheelhouse…and I think you should too! It is an easy, and not to expensive way to “Up Your Cocktail Game”.

Where is AOC Pineau Des Charentes?

It is in the same region as Cognac, on the western coast of France. Pineau des Charentes gained AOC status in 1945, though it has been made there for 400+ years. The AOC gives a strict set of rules including: area of production, varieties to use, vine trimming, yields, and production methods. Also, no additives, sugar, coloring, or caramel are allowed. The climate is maritime (warm summers, cool winters, and close proximity to a large body of water).

What is Pineau des Charentes?

Pineau des Charentes is a French fortified wine with only two ingredients: pressed grape must and cognac eau de vie (3:1 ratio). The grapes from both the must and the eau de vie have to be from the same vineyard and made by the same people in order to express the terroir. The unfermented grape must is prevented from fermenting by shocking it with the eau de vie. Pineau has a low ABV (averaging 17%), much lower than spirits which usually hover around 40%. Therefore it is a great lower alcohol alternative to spirits. All Pineau must have a minimum 12 months oak aging, according to AOC rules.

The Pineau Story

The first Pineau was an accident, as many great stories start! A Cognac producer had some unfermented grape must that needed to be stored. It was put in a barrel thought to be empty, but there was some Cognac in it…..voila! Over time the liquid turned into what we now know as Pineau! There are many types of Pineau. The Blanc style is usually made with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, while the Red is made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. From there, the wines are classified by age: Young is < 5 years old, Vieux (Old) > 5 years old, and Tres Vieux (Very Old) > 10 years old.

How to enjoy Pineau des Charentes?

A little over 10,000 bottles were sold worldwide in 2017. It is best enjoyed as an aperitif or in a cocktail and it pairs well with: goat cheese, blue cheese, Roquefort, and any aged cheese. Below are some of the cocktails we enjoyed at the event:


Ingredients: Pineau des Charentes (young blanc) with tonic, and a thyme sprig/grapefruit peel for garnish.

This is a great spring/summer pre-dinner drink.


Ingredients: Pineau des Charentes (vieux blanc), Plymouth Gin, Génépy des Alpes (génépy is the primary alpine herb in Chartreuse), a dash of absinthe, and orange bitters.

This is a super complex cocktail with layered bitter flavors. The bitters are cleansing and make your mouth water. I also think they’re good for calibration and a great palate cleanser before wine tasting. This would go great with a funky grilled cheese.

Ciel Rouge

Ingredients: Pineau de Charentes Jeune Rouge, fresh lime juice, toasted orgeat, China China, and 8-year-old dark rum.

This drink was full of bitter flavors. Not for the faint of heart!

We also tasted the following Pineau des Charentes on their own:

Pineau Park Tessendier Park (White Young $20)

Fresh fig, stewed apricot preserves, dried grapes, and walnut. This was a very interesting wine. The sweetness registers first, then subsides, then acid/floral, then heat. It finishes almost dry with a savory note. Brilliant.

Pierre Ferrand (White Young)

Peaches, plums, prunes, and toasted nuts. I can almost smell the sea/brine. A candied, honeyed note with a warm toastiness.

Reviseur (White Old $29.99)

Walnuts, dried raisins, and a faint acid lift. Light rancio on the palate. Savory and sweet, almost medicinal (pine?). So many layered, complex rancio notes: caramelization, toasted nuts, coffee beans, and raisins/prunes.

 Château de Beaulon (White Old)

Fresh, fruity with notes of white flower, honey, and vanilla. Flavors of mandarin and dried apricot. More rancio notes.

Château de Beaulon (Red Old $32)

Fruity notes of black cherry and black currant. Floral notes of red rose.

Normandin-Mercier (Red Young $26.99)

Aromas of hibiscus, earl grey tea, and dried cherry. Smells like a still red wine though rancio and chocolate notes are not too far behind.  Lots of spice (cinnamon).

Bache Gabrielsen (Blanc Very Old $50)

Flovor of nuts, dried apricots, and well-matured Cognac. Soooo many nuts. Would be good with fresh toasted Marcona almonds.

Thank you to The SOMM Journal for an invite to this lovely event!

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a Los Angeles-based certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer.

Brianne has educated and entertained over 10,000 people through her in-person and virtual wine tasting experiences.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping people Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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As a wine writer, I frequently accept samples for review on my  website and on my social media channels. Please contact me at to discuss sending samples for review. I promise to always be honorable with the samples. I will evaluate all wines in good tasting settings and with no distractions.

All reviews are my opinions, and mine only. Because of the volume of samples I receive, I cannot promise that all samples received will be reviewed, but I will do my best.

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