Picpoul de Pinet is finding an ever increasing presence on both supermarket shelves and wine lists across the country. However, this ancient grape remained relatively anonymous for a great deal of time.
Indeed, during most of the 19th and 20th century Picpoul was largely a base wine in Sète Vermouth. Then, a drop in popularity of vermouth led winemakers to look elsewhere and thank goodness they did!
Now, we are graced with the delightfully easy-drinking and delicious Picpoul, with Picpoul de Pinet being king of them all.
Let’s look into this once forgotten grape and why people are increasingly reaching out for it.
While Picpoul may appear to some as the new kid on the block, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Picpoul, (sometimes referred to as Piquepoul), is an ancient grape variety. The story goes that Greek settlers to the Languedoc region set up the vineyards and helped them to flourish. This flourishing dates back to 600BC and Picpoul is among the oldest grapes in the region.
The reason it has been such a stalwart grape for winemakers in the region is its ability to maintain a deep and crisp acidity in spite of the baking Mediterranean heat. It comes as no surprise then that ‘Piquepoul’ translates to ‘stings the lip’. Once you take your first sip of this delicious drink and feel that unmistakable acidity first hand, you’ll understand why.
Picpoul maintained popularity for a great deal of time until, like the rest of Europe, the Languedoc region was hit by a Phylloxera outbreak in the late 19th century. Picpoul proved particularly susceptible to this little pest and many vintners turned their back on this once reliable grape.
However, fortunes are turning. In particular they are turning in the appellation which holds the same name, Picpoul de Pinet. Generally Picpoul had been confined to a blending partner with the Languedoc variety of Clairette, to create Picardin. Now, it is a grape to be appreciated in its own right.
Picpoul de Pinet
The AOC, (Appellation of Controlled Origin), Picpoul de Pinet vineyards cover a small area of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Indeed, it is only 3000 acres out of 740,300. Yet, this small region is beginning to establish itself as a force to be reckoned with.
These vineyards are set against the Thau Lagoon and the Mediterranean sea. That is crucial. The influence of these maritime properties are deeply important factors, which help to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of the surrounding area. Sea breezes in the day help to cool the region. Then, the water in the lagoon absorbs heat throughout the day and prevents the temperature from failing excessively in the night.
These stunning and unique marine vineyards are some of the oldest on the Mediterranean and it likely comes down to this hardy green grape. Not all grape varietals would be able to withstand scorching sun rays, pummelling winds from the sea and the ever-changing tides. Picpoul can though. This has allowed it to flourish into a flagship varietal in one of France’s esteemed regions.
As the name suggests you can really expect a lip-smacking acidity to Picpoul de Pinet. Beyond that it is relatively dry and particularly light. It also possesses an incredibly refreshing nature, with distinct herbaceous and mineral elements to it. The saline minerality is undoubtedly a consequence of being a ‘marine’ vineyard.
Crystal clear lagoons leading to a crystal clear white wine. This clear beverage does have a green, almost aquamarine tinge to it. Even more fitting for its oceanic origins. The light colour betrays the delicacy in aroma as well. Delightfully light and flora with strong aromas of blossom, acacia, honey and lemon. This all culminates in a crisp and fresh finished wine. Beautifully structured and enticingly acidic.
For food pairings, there are two perfect routes to go down here. Fresh and fishy, or fatty and fried. We’ll give you one of each.
Moules Mariniére is a perfect pairing. The salinity and freshness of the Mussels are a real winner here. They’ll pair perfectly with the marine-inspired Picpoul de Pinet. The acidity of the Picpoul will also serve to cut through the butter and cream, with the delicate herbaceous elements of the wine matching the herbaceous bouquet garni in this dish, (you could even use some of the wine for the cooking itself). For a great recipe for this classic French dish, read here.
Refined and delicate. That goes for Picpoul de Pinet and Moules Mariniére. So, let’s flip the script and go the other way. If you want a fatty, fuss-free and a frankly fantastic food pairing, then look no further than the always welcome pizza!
The deeply acidic Picpoul de Pinet will cut through the rich and fatty pizza like a knife. There really can be nothing better than a slice of pizza in one hand and a glass of Picpoul de Pinet in the other. If you’re like me, you might be more inclined to order a pizza than cook one.
However, for the adventurous out there, making a pizza can be a fun way to spend an evening. Although, this recipe recommends a pizza oven, and making your own dough – so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time. Read here for more.
There you have it, a look into all things Picpoul de Pinet. If you’re desperate to try for yourself then we recommend the Calmel & Joseph – Villa Blanche Picpoul de Pinet 18′. Available to our wine club members and monthly subscribers for £10.47!
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