Pineau des Charentes

Every cloud has a silver lining! Several hundred years ago a farmer accidentally poured grape must into an oak cask containing cognac residues.

Since the damage had been done and the grape must was ruined, the farmer put the cask on one side and, as the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. Years went by and the cask sat there, brewing away. Finally, however, it was retrieved from oblivion for emptying, but between cask and drain someone took a sip. Which was a good thing, as a good thing was exactly what the contents had become. And so Pineau des Charentes was born.

What we have here is a true mongrel. The Norwegian Wine and Spirits Monopoly lists Pineau des Charantes under «other fortified wine», but it is not a wine at all.

Wine is by definition fermented grape juice, but there has never been any alcohol fermentation in this drink. Pineau des Charentes is made by mixing freshly pressed grape juice with cognac and then leaving the mixture to mature in oak casks for a few years. The brandy is added in a quantity to give the mixture an alcohol content of 17%. Grape juice would never be able to ferment at such high levels.

Pineau comes in several styles. This variation is mainly the result of how long it has spent in oak casks. In France there are several beverages in which grape juice is mixed with spirits, but this version from Cognac is undoubtedly the best. Among the locals «Pineau Blanc» is mainly taken as a little something before a meal, but it can be used in many other ways. It is excellent with all sorts of desserts and, not least, makes an outstanding accompaniment to goose liver. This French delicacy is full of fat and flavour, so it needs a drink with a good balance between sweetness and acidity. Pineau should be served chilled in fortified wine measures, which means that a bottle contains at least ten glasses. Once open, it will keep perfectly well in the fridge for several weeks.

Sabayon Selma
Serves 4
6 egg yolks
40 cl Pineau des Charentes, Cuvée Selma
3 tbsp sugar
400 g fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries and blueberries)

Combine the egg yolks, wine and sugar in a bowl. Put the bowl over a pan of boiling water and whisk until the mixture is warm and thick. Take the pan off the heat and whisk for around 10 minutes or until the mixture is cold. Serve the berries on a dessert plate, pouring the sabayon over just before serving.

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