The Rise of Picpoul de Pinet

Picpoul?  Picpoul de Pinet? A grape still unbeknownst to some and a favorite amongst others.  Picpoul is one of the oldest grapes of the Languedoc region in Southern France, dating back to 1618.  The first time I had Picpoul de Pinet was 10 years ago during my travels to the French Riviera, where it was found on many restaurant wines lists.  I instantly fell in love with the acidity and delicate floral notes.  Then I came back home to the US and found it really difficult to find at my local wine shop. Well that is changing.  Picpoul de Pinet is on the rise.  It is a wine that is widely consumed in the south of France, and gaining popularity around the world.

Picpoul de Pinet has 1400 hectares of vines around the Thau Lagoon and is the largest white wine producer in the Languedoc.  In a region where blending is a fairly common practice, Picpoul de Pinet is a single varietal white wine.  Picpoul was a very popular grape in the 17th and 18th century as it was also used in Vermouth, but the grape lost ground due to Phylloxera, and was planted to other varietals.  In recent years, its popularity has been on the rise as quality has greatly improved. Today many retailers carry at least a couple of bottles of Picpoul de Pinet on their shelves.

As interest over the grape increases, Picpoul is also being planted in Washington and California. Picpoul as a grape is also grown in other regions with a slightly different name; it is known as Folle Blanche in the Loire Valley and is grown in Spain and Portugal under the name Picapoll. Picpoul is also grown in southern Rhone as a blending grape for white CdP.

Picpoul de Pinet is fresh and full of zippy acidity.  In Languedoc it is also known as “lip stinger” due to its naturally high lip smacking acidity.  Upon first sip you will be accosted with acidity, but once you look past the acidity you will find deeper complexities and textures.  Picpouls are generally medium bodied wines and are pale yellow, with a slighty greenish hue.  It is soft and delicate with floral notes.  You also find characteristics of lemon and melon.  There is also a hint of salinity on the finish.

This varietal is planted in Languedoc and the vines are near the Étang de Thau where some of France’s best oysters and shellfish are harvested, thus a natural pairing.  It also pairs perfectly with fish, cheese and charcuterie as the acidity neutralizes the salt in these pairings.

Picpoul de Pinet is versatile, fresh, fun and lively. It can be drunk as an aperitif yet it is sophisticated enough to be paired with food.  Quality Picpouls are on the rise and back in vogue as many winemakers in the region are beginning to realize the allure of this wine.  Winemakers are using time-tested traditional methods to produce their wines, as well as embracing modern technology to produce quality wines.

This summer consider exploring the wines of Picpoul de Pinet, found in signature long green bottles.  They are a wonderful alternative to Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.  The wines are fun, affordable, and low in alcohol, perfect for a hot summer day.  The below two wines are just a sampling of some fantastic Picpoul de Pinet.

Domaine Guillaume Cabrol Picpoul de Pinet 2016 – This wine is perfect for a summer day.  It was pale yellow in color with a hint of green.  On the nose aromas of white flowers, peach, lemon and orange peel. On the palate you get that lip smacking acidity that is so refreshing.  There is a hint of salinity on the finish.  This is a  classic example of a Picpoul de Pinet.

Moulin de Gassac Picpoul de Pinet 2016 – From vineyards very near the oyster beds on the Mediterranean sea, this wine is a classic example of why Picpoul is known as the “Southern Muscadet”. Intriguing briny mineral notes on both the nose and mouth provide the perfect backdrop for fish and shellfish. Some melon and citrus flavors keep you coming back for more and the crisp acidity assures that your palate does not tire from this zesty wine. Only 1000 cases produced.

There is a lot of excitement around the wines of Picoul de Pinet.  Please check out the links from my fellow #winophiles for more on this lip smacking wine.

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Comments

  1. Great background on the region and its winemaking traditions. And the two bottles you describe sound like perfect wines to have on hand as we move into spring. Cheers!

  2. The descriptor “Southern Muscadet” explains why this variety is such a favorite of mine. I love the acidity and minerality. Great post, Rupal!

  3. Enjoyed your overview Rupal. As you say the salinity and briny notes on the finish …it’s just great with seafood!

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