The return of Cuvée d’Erpigny … the barrels
February 2012, that’s how long it’s been since we brewed Cuvée d’Erpigny. There’s a simple reason why it took us such a long time. One key ingredient wasn’t available anymore, Monbazillac barrels. Chateau Belingard used to deliver some Monbazillac (AOC for sweet white wine produced in Monbazillac) barrels to us. Unfortunetly, in 2013 we couldn’t get these barrels anymore. As we created the recipe for Cuvée d’Erpigny specificly for sweet white wine barrels, Cuvée d’Erpgny disappeared from our portfolio once the last remaining barrels went out of duty.
Should this fantastic beer disappear forever? The answer is simple, no! The minute we can find barrels interesting enough for this magnificent beer, we will brew it again. And so we did. The last four brews of 2015 were Erpigny. There will be three versions of Cuvée d’Erpigny 2016, each aged on different barrels.
Cuvée d’Erpigny Sauternes 2016
We always thought Sauternes barrels were impossible to get, hence the original Cuvée d’Erpigny aged on Monbazillac barrels straight from the winery. These Sauternes barrels weren’t bought tstraight at the winery, so we don’t really know the exact origin. We do know we’ve got three of them, 300 l each.
Sauternes is a French sweet wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux. Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. This causes the grapes to become partially raisined, resulting in concentrated and distinctively flavored wines. Wines from Sauternes, especially the Premier Cru Supérieur estate Château d’Yquem, can be very expensive, due largely to the very high cost of production. Somewhat similar but less expensive and typically less-distinguished wines are produced in the neighboring regions of Monbazillac, Cérons, Loupiac and Cadillac.
Cuvée d’Erpigny Vieux Pineau des Charentes 2016
On our search for “unusual” barrels I learned that Pineau des Charentes is also barrel aged. Reason enough to go on a search for these barrels. We managed to get one so far, ideal for a try-out with the reborn Cuvée d’Erpigny. This 353 l barrel from 1997 smells promising. As always, that’s a good way to start a barrel aged beer.
Pineau des Charentes is the sweet, strong ‘Vin de Liqueur’ of the Charentais (Cognac) region of western France. It is made by adding Cognac from the previous year’s distillation (or older) to fresh grape must of the current vintage. By law, the must is required to be freshly harvested (although it may have undergone a partial fermentation) and the Cognac must have an alcohol content of at least 60%. The resulting mixture has an alcoholic strength of 16–22% and a sugar content of at least 125g/L. Because the must remains essentially unfermented, it retains all of its ‘grapey’ flavors and – ideally – the varietal characteristics of the grapes used, which develop over time. All Pineau des Charentes is aged at the winery for at least 18 months – including 12 months in oak barrels. To earn the right to be labeled as vieux (old), the wines must spend five years or more in oak; the oldest of all are tres vieux, which require a full 10 years in barrel.
Cuvée d’Erpigny Pedro Ximenez 2016
These barrels are assembled with reused and already seasoned staves out of 50 year old Pedro Ximenez Sherry & wine barrels. The oak barrels have a capacity of 500 l. The staves are homogeneous toasted over a fire of American oak chips. We bought 4 of these barrels straight from the cooperage (toneleria). Three of them will be used for Cuvée d’Erpigny, one will be used for the famous Cuvée de Mortagne PX.
Pedro Ximénez is a name used for dessert wines created with at least 85% of the grape variety with the same name. The grapes are either picked very mature or dried in the sun. Commonly referred to as P.X., these are intensely sweet wines, especially when the grapes are dried in the sun. While this process was also practiced in the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry region, nowadays the base wines for this style are mostly produced in the D.O. Montilla-Moriles since the climate there protects the grapes better from rotting (generally warmer and less humid). Montilla-Moriles creates the vast majority of P.X. wines within their own denomination, but part of them are them are transferred back to bodegas in Jerez for maturation, which allows them to be labeled as sherry.