Pineau de Charentes, the baby brother of cognac (grape juice added to spirit), is enjoyed by a growing number of people. But in the 1980’s a young Breton man on holiday in the Charente came across an oddity he’d not heard of before – sparkling pineau. It etched a deep memory within him and, ten years later when he was back in the area, he attempted to buy something similar. He’d even memorised the name – Moussant du Planty.
But his searching was to no avail, and the man, now not quite so young, had to wait a further 20 years before he was to once again come across this bubbling delight at a market in Saintes in the Charentes Maritime.
Nowadays the situation has changed somewhat – and sparkling pineau, often incorrectly known as pineau champagnisé, is sold widely in the region. The production method is rigidly adhered to – five year old pineau is gasified for bottling. The age of the drink reduces the sweetness, and the addition of carbon dioxide allows the natural flavours to develop.
Laurent Lablanche, a pineau producer under the farming group Groupement Agricole d’Exploitation en Commun or GAEC, sells round 3000 bottles of sparkling pineau per year, which accounts for around 10% of his total pineau sales.
Mr Lablanche has tried to get his sparkling pineau into the nationwide supermarket franchises – but abandoned this direction in favour of direct sales. He counts the Paris Saint-Germain footballer, Sylvain Armand among his clients.
Despite the slow increase in popularity, pineau is still only a small market. Of the 5,000 growers in the region of Cognac, only 600 of them produce Pineau.