New Loire Direct Import: Patrice Colin & His Ethereal Pineau D'Aunis

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Pineau d’Aunis is a fascinating Loire Valley grape, one that yields delicious light-bodied reds with a heck of a lot of personality. It’s known for wines with black pepper spice and crunchy red berry notes, like a sassy cousin to Poulsard. It’s an enchanting grape, and a rare one. But recently at our staff Loire tasting, our Buyer Keith Mabry introduced us to the wines of Patrice Colin, a new Direct Import producer who specializes in Pineau d’Aunis, and the grape came into laser focus for me. 

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Both Pineau d’Aunis and Patrice Colin hail from the Côteaux du Vendômois, an under-the-radar appellation north of Touraine and Vouvray that lies on a Loire River tributary called, confusingly enough, the Loir. The appellation was officially formed in 2001 but it’s been producing wine since the 11th century. Part of its mystique is that it’s small: there are only 13 private producers and one co-op in this appellation, and this perhaps explains why its hometown hero, Pineau d’Aunis, doesn’t make it Stateside all that often. Luckily, we have Keith, hellbent on bringing us the best wines in every nook and cranny of France.

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Many things stood out about the Colin wines we tasted, but in particular was the purity of the fruit in each. And the highlight for me were those from the finicky Pineau d’Aunis, which almost disappeared in the 1970s save for a few local growers who cultivated it in hopes it would someday make a comeback. And today, it seems to be coming into its own, picking up its own small following. I don’t know if you could call it a comeback, per se, as it’s still only occupying about 80 ha of land in this appellation, but there’s certainly some buzz around it. And it’s really the perfect grape to fill that lighter-bodied, slightly chilled, food-friendly red niche. I wasn’t very familiar with it before the Patrice Colin lineup, so I didn’t know what to expect. But after tasting five different cuvées from Colin, I had a great sense of who this grape is and what it can do. And she’s a spicy one! Black pepper and incense notes shine through crisp, crunchy red fruits. The grape has lower tannins but a very dry character, plus high acidity and a light body. It gets likened to Gamay or Poulsard, but a little more silky and fruity. And it is a killer wine for food.

Patrice is the eighth generation at this domaine, which dates back to 1735, and his son Pierre François and son-in-law Florian, at 25 and 30 years old, are bringing youthful energy to the ninth. They work organically, growing Pineau d’Aunis, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, and Chardonnay on flinty soils over clay/limestone subsoils. The Loir has a microclimate with little rain, and much sunshine. With low sulfur and indigenous yeasts in the cellar, they produce  wines that are fresh, clean, and aromatically complex. 

At this time of year, when the foods get heavy and rich, these graceful, savory wines are going to be a gangbusters pairing. Seriously, they’re intensely delicious and interesting. If you’re craving a rich Cab, they might not be your thing, but if you’d like to try something a little off the beaten path that still delivers immense drinking pleasure at the table, pick up a few of these bottles—they’re a great value, all around the $15 mark. And they are so versatile that they would work beautifully for the Thanksgiving feast.


Patrice Colin “Perles Grises” Methode Ancestrale Brut $14.99
100% Pineau d’Aunis
This Pét Nat is Colin’s largest production (at just 2000 cases) and it is absolutely delicious. Fresh and aromatic with bright raspberries, peppercorn, clove, and allspice. It’s light in body and very dry and food friendly

Patrice Colin “Perles Rouges” Methode Ancestrale Brut $14.99
100% Gamay
Another Pét Nat, this one really expresses the Gamay varietal with crunchy, spicy berries on the palate. Notes of dried cherries and cranberries weave through a peppery, herbal finish. Nice acidity.

2018 Patrice Colin Coteaux du Venomois Rose’ $12.99
I have to admit that it’s rare that I fall in love with a rose’...certainly there are some that really catch my attention, but in general I find them just pleasant and gluggable. This one, however, is a showstopper. It merited several hearts on my tasting sheet. It shows unique notes of dried violets, clove, and eucalyptus. Very dry. Medium body. So much character. It would be a perfect Thanksgiving wine, with savory notes that would complement the rosemary potatoes, cranberry sauce etc.

2018 Patrice Colin “Vieilles Vignes” Coteaux du Vendomois Blanc $16.99
100% Chenin Blanc on clay-limestone, 6 months in barrel, 60-90 year old vines 
Spicy and sagey apple on the nose. This is a dry wine but has body on the palate, a version of Chenin that doesn’t play up the more sweet, ripe possibilities of the grape but keeps it linear. Great acidity and complexity.

2018 Patrice Colin “Pierre Francois” Coteaux du Vendomois Rouge $14.99
Pineau d’Aunis with about 20% Pinot Noir and 10% Cabernet Franc, stainless steel
Exotic notes of incense and perfume on a light, bright frame and hints of Christmas spice. Would be great with a slight chill to it. 

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- Kate Soto