One of my all time favorite summer sippers has got to be Picpoul de Pinet, the deliciously crisp, refreshing white wine from the Languedoc region in France. Even more wonderful is the price point, as most Picpoul de Pinet wines retail for $9 to $12.
The Picpoul de Pinet wine region is in the Languedoc. Just west of the Mediterranean, it is roughly triangular in shape with the historic, and beautiful cities of Agde, Sète and Pézenas as its points. The vineyards sit atop a limestone plateau surrounded by the most beautifully perfumed garrigue (i.e low, soft leaved Mediterranean bushes) and pine groves.
The Piquepoul grape
Picpoul de Pinet (Pik-pul-de-Pinay) wines are made form the ancient, local grape "piquepoul'. Noted for its acidity (piquepoul translates as 'lip-stinger'), it is very well suited to the warm Mediterranean climate of the region because it retains its wonderful, crisp acidity despite the heat. Sea breezes from the Mediterranean help moderate the heat ensuring lots of bright, fresh flavors.
The Taste of Picpoul de Pinet
Immediate words that come to mind whenever I taste a Picpoul de Pinet are crisp, racy and refreshing. Flavors and aromas combine citrus, yellow plums, apricots, blossoms and a well defined minerality. These are not very complex wines, yet always show an honest sense of place. While high in acid, these wines are really not for cellaring and are best enjoyed within two years of release.
Picpoul de Pinet at the Table
While the wines are delicious summer sippers, they truly come into their own at the table. They are especially good with seafood such as oysters, crab, razor clams, anchovies or mussels. Some people often refer to Picpoul de Pinet as the 'Muscadet' of the south, referring to its special affinity with oysters. Apart from seafood, the wines are a great foil for cured meats such as coppa, prosciutto, speck and salami.
Like much of southern France, local "Caves Co-operatives" dominate the production scene in Picpoul. In addition, there are about twenty smaller producers, many of them also available on the US market. Some of my favorites, which I have recently tasted are noted below.
2010 Domaine Félines Jourdan, Picpoul de Pinet, AOC Languedoc, $11 – Slight golden hue (possibly from older vines). Crisp and very minerally with subtle aromas and flavors of mirabelle plums, garrigue, earthy minerality, orchard fruit.
2010 Gaujal de Saint Bon, Picpoul de Pinet, AOC Languedoc, $11 – Strong mineral, citrus, pear and a hint of almond on the nose. Crisp, juicy, with a medley of grapefruit, lime and lemon flavors, lots of almost salty minerality and a gentle savoriness on the finish.
2010 La Cave "Les Costières de Pomerols", Picpoul de Pinet, AOC Coteaux du Languedoc, $10 – Quite zesty, racy and citrussy. Bright and breezy but packed with juicy fruit. Hints of savory minerality. An easy drinking summer sipper.
Other producers worth seeking out, that I have enjoyed in the past, but not the latest 2010 vintage include Château Petit Roubié, Picpoul de Pinet and Domaine de Guillemarine Picpoul de Pinet.
Have you tried any Picpoul de Pinet yet? And what do you think?
Images: Mary Gorman and the official website for Picpoul de Pinet