Food and Wine

Oysters and MusselsFor lovers of gourmet food and wine, particularly fish and seafood, then the Charente Maritime is really the place for you. The famous locally produced wine is Pineau des Charentes (see below) and the region is globally renowned for its oysters particularly Oysters from the Marennes-Oléron area, rope grown mussels and fish. Local dishes make great use of the fleur de sel or French sea salt which is produced in the islands of Ré and Oléron. (Right – Oysters and Mussels sign from Oléron) Other highly rated local produce to be found in this region are honey, asparagus and potatoes.

Pineau des Charentes

As you travel throughout the Charente Maritime area you will see many roadside advertisements for this delicious liqueur. It is made by blending grape juice which has not been allowed to ferment with cognac usually from the same vineyard. The resulting blend is then aged producing the familiar pineau taste. Many producers specialise in vintage Pineau which has been aged for at least five years to give it a much more distinctive and richer flavour.

pineau des charentes

Pineau des Charentes

According to legend, the drink was created by accident in the 16th century when a winemaker dropped a few grapes into a brandy barrel and so much liked the taste that he apparently began to produce it regularly.

Pineau des Charentes can be bought in three varieties either white, red or rosé. By far the most popular variety is the white, usually made from grapes such as Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche and aged at least 18 months in oak barrels. This is best drunk chilled as an aperitif. The red Pineau is as you might expect made from red grapes – Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon and this will typically be aged at least 15 months.

Many locals like to drink their Pineau alongside oysters and many more enjoy cooking with it. One popular dish which includes Pineau is ‘Moules au Pineau’ which is basically mussels cooked with tomatoes, garlic, parsley with Pineau added in to the mix.

Drinking Pineau des Charentes

The wide variety of this wine, as stated above, is usually served as an aperitif and this will typically be chilled to between 8°C and 10°C. However, it is frequently served with food as it is regarded by some as being a perfect accompaniment to foie gras, fish, seafood, poultry and cheese.

Red pineau, much like with red wine in general, is often served with meat dishes, soft cheeses and sometimes even desserts. Of course it can also be used in cooking and even makes an occasional appearance in specialist cocktails.