The Fortified French Wine That Can Elevate Almost Any Cocktail

We all have our go-to ingredient for mixed drinks. Some of us prefer the hard stuff like rum or tequila, while others love a good sparkling wine or apéritif thrown into the mix to really enhance our cocktails. There are so many different kinds of alcohol and variations divided regionally by age, flavor, or intensity that there are bound to be a few lesser-known but absolutely delicious alcoholic beverages that manage to slip through the cracks and avoid fame. One of these quietly delectable drinks is the Pineau des Charentes.

Pineau des Charentes, according to Pineau Academy, has been a secret kept for centuries in the regions of Charente and Charente-Maritime, France. It wasn't until 1945 that the beverage received the mark of an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée that France decided to start sharing this particular booze with the rest of the world. This is a remarkably short period of time for the rest of the world outside of western France to become familiar with the fortified wine, especially when you take into consideration how old the drink is. Issuu claims that Pineau des Charentes was accidentally invented as far back as the 16th century when excess grape must was thrown into a barrel with some Cognac eau de vie and left to ferment, creating a beautiful and nuanced fortified wine.

Try it in some of your favorite drinks!

This fortified wine is traditionally made today by using three parts wine-must to every one part Cognac and must be aged for at least one year (via Punch Drink). Pineau des Charentes comes in as many colors as wine does: white, pink, and red, and can be made from several grape varietals so long as they are grown within France's designated region. Travel Distilled says that Pineau des Charentes tends to use Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Colombard, Sémillon, or Sauvignon Blanc as its white wine base and Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot grapes for its red wine base. No matter the wine, this drink will be on the sweeter side (though not as sweet as classic dessert wines) and averages around 17% alcohol by volume, and has some notes of spicy vanilla from the Cognac and barrel (via Food & Wine).

Liquor recommends mixing this delicious spirited wine into any cocktail you want to have a –not overly– fruity and nutty flavor. The site suggests pouring some into your favorite equal-part cocktails, drinks like the Raisin' Cane and Aquarelle, or use it wherever you'd normally have a little wine or sherry and see how you like it. Pineau des Charentes might just be your new signature drink!