Posted by: tomciocco | October 9, 2014

MENU PINOT – NOT ON THE LIST HARDLY ANYWHERE, AND NO RELATION, BY THE WAY…

Ah, the little secrets that the vineyards of the old world hide. The previous post took a sip from the bottle of an Italian ultra-rarity, and this time it’s an arcane vine from France, and to be more specific, from Le Jardin de France, the Loire Valley.

Running out a mental list of vine varieties from the Loire might begin with the reds: first, the two big ones (at least in terms of acreage), Cabernet Franc and Cot, and then moving “down” the list, Gamay and Pinot Noir, and at the very bottom of the page, such varieties as Grolleau and Pineau d’Aunis. For the whites, we would begin with Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, then on to Melon and Gros Plant, and again, at the very end of the column, tonight’s variety, Menu Pinot.

As the title states, despite this grape’s handle, Menu Pinot is not related in any direct way with Pinot Noir or Gris or Blanc. What it is kin with is the almost infamously ubiquitous genetic mark of a now quite unknown variety called Gouais Blanc, a grape that without much exaggeration, has been found to be part of the family tree of nearly half of the grapes in Western Europe. As with many of the more obscure grapes found anywhere, Menu Pinot is quite old, with its first written attestation coming from the early 16th century. And though fussiness in the vineyard or low yields is often the reason that these antique cultivars become supplanted by other more reliable varieities, Menu Pinot is not particularly difficult or parsimonious (in fact its fruit production is quite prolific, and often troublingly so), and indeed it has a well known resistence to cold winters. All that said, the total plantings of Menu Pinot have decreased over the decades and continue to do so.

In terms of its character in the glass, Menu Pinot typically has a somewhat “countrified”, softly sweet and sour (but not overly tart) character that make it a good choice to blend with its often searingly acidic neighbors in the vineyard like Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Romorantin. There are very few producers who bottle Menu Pinot unalloyed, and this farm that does, for whatever reason, does so behind a non-vintage label.

To maximize the big and burly charms of this wine (14% alcohol), I matched it with a first course of toasts spread with a hash of smoked salmon, soft goat cheese, grated apple and tarragon, followed by a good ol’ roasted chicken slathered with a “Scarborough Fair” compound butter and stuffed with a couple of oranges. With all of the dripping from said ingredients I made a sauce, and served carrots and peas as a side dish.

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Christophe Foucher La Lunotte “2 temps en temps” NV

Greenish, burnished medium golden color. Oxidative nose of apricot, yellow cherry, roasted quince, yellow flowers, honey, Shiitake mushrooms, malted grains, and almond milk. In the mouth the wine is big and full with a discreet acidity and “sherried” flavors of grilled peach, apple, dried lemon, white spices, caramel and salty notes on the broad, warm finish. 

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