While it's not widely available in the UK, I've always had a soft spot for Pineau des Charentes. It takes me back to late summer evenings on the Île de Rée, where we would sip a bottle and gaze hypnotically at little fishing boats coming into port. Sweet harmony.
We had the pleasure of meeting Monsieur Boutinet at the tail end of an intimate tasting event featuring small, artisanal french wine producers. I had my eye on his table from the beginning, and perhaps was guilty of rushing through the line-up to get to him. Softly spoken, Bernard had a charming way of making you lean your ear into him, as if parting with secrets that he had saved just for you.
He shared one such secret at a dinner we hosted, his Cognac featuring as the digestif. His trick was to take your espresso, swill some brown sugar around the edges of the cup, quickly drink it and pour a measure of his XO in its place. The result was a phenomenal, cool/warm sensation of caramel, spices, coffee and honey. Sensational.