Spring has officially arrived in the eastern United States; or at least that’s what people tell me. As I sit at my desk here in New York City, though, it’s another gray, rainy, chilly day, and all I want to do is burrow under the bedcovers and go to sleep. But adulting allows few such indulgences, right? That’s why I’m really looking forward to Saturday’s French Winophiles (#Winophiles) chat.
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is going to take us away – far away – from our wintry weather, to the South of France. She must have sensed our need for a warm Mediterranean welcome! This month’s topic is Picpoul/Piquepoul, a golden grape that turns out charmingly quaffable wines perfect with seafood or for sipping on their own. You can read more about the grape and its neighborhood in Camilla’s invitation post here.
As we do the third Saturday of each month, the Winophiles will meet up on Twitter at 11 am ET to discuss what we learned about Picpoul/Piquepoul. We’ll be sharing tasting notes, travel tales, and recipes that pair well with the wine. If you’d like to join us, please do. Simply search for #Winophiles to see the thread, and be sure to add the hashtag to any of your tweets.
Here’s a preview of what the group members will be writing/chatting about:
- Michelle of Rockin Red Blog says, “Picpoul…Take Me Away.”
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm encourages us to Pick a Picpoul to Enjoy al Fresco This Summer.
- Susannah of Avvinare features Picpoul de Pinet – A Refreshing White from the Languedoc.
- Jill of L’Occasion shares Mediterranean Bliss: Picpoul de Pinet.
- Jeff of FoodWineClick! pairs Picpoul de Pinet and Steak Tartare Redemption.
- Nicole of Somm’s Table writes Cooking to the Wine: Font-Mars Picpoul de Pinet with Crab Cakes and Fennel-Apple Salad.
- Payal of Keep the Peas posts A Lip-Smacking Lip-Stinger: Picpoul de Pinet.
- David of Cooking Chat makes a case for Picpoul Wine with Pesto and Other Pairings.
- Lynn of Savor the Harvest asserts The Single Variety Wine For Summer- Picpoul de Pinet.
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator has Picpoul Goes Southern with Shrimp and Grits.
- Jane of Always Ravenous pairs Halibut with Spring Vegetables and Picpoul Wine.
- Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles shares Picpouls from Pinet and California and a Seaside Pairing
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be Pairing Bourride à la Sétoise with Picpoul From France to California’s Central Coast.
- Rupal from Journeys of a Syrah Queen writes about The Rise of Picpoul de Pinet.
- Here at The Swirling Dervish, we’re talking about Picpoul de Pinet: Your Go-To Wine for Spring.
Picpoul vs. Piquepoul
According to Jancis Robinson, both refer to the same grape variety, native to the Occitanie (Languedoc) region of France, famous for its full-bodied, aromatic white wines with notable acidity. In 2013, growers in the commune of Pinet applied for and were granted separate status as an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). That last word, contrôlée, means what you think it does – control; in this case over the term Picpoul de Pinet, which may be used only by producers within the area defined by the AOC. All other growers and producers must label their wines as Piquepoul. Of course, there are other stipulations within the AOC regulation (this is France, after all); if you’re interested in the details, click here.
I haven’t tasted enough of either wine to know if there is an appreciable difference between the Picpoul made in Pinet and Piquepoul produced elsewhere. But the ones I’ve had were all enjoyable, refreshing wines at a very reasonable price. Hard to argue against any of them, in my humble opinion.
Note: Piquepoul Noir and Gris, while rarities, do exist. In fact, Piquepoul Noir is one of the grapes approved for Chateauneuf-du-Pape production.
I was pleasantly surprised by the wine I picked up for this event. It had a lot more complexity than I expected, especially at the price point, and I found myself going back for sip after sip, until my glass was empty. Upon doing a little research on the domaine, I was even more impressed.
Marion and Guillaume Alliés are sixth-generation winemakers at this 25-acre farm perched along the edge of the Bassin de Thau, the largest of the inland salt-water lagoons dotting the French coast from the Rhône River to the Pyrénées Mountains. On the other side of the property is the A9 highway, the modern-day version of the Via Domitia (built in 118 BC), the original Roman route stretching between Italy and Spain.
Soils at Reine Juliette tend toward marl and chalk, with strata of red clay running through. This wine, from a parcel called Terres Rouges, comes from grapes grown on red-brown clay soil sitting atop a well-drained limestone base.
The vineyards benefit from their proximity to the lagoons, especially the cooling breezes that blow across, helping to moderate the warm summer climate. You can almost taste that influence in the wines: they’re rich and full-bodied, honest products of their Mediterranean roots, yet they maintain an electric acidity that keeps that richness in check. It was what I loved most about this wine – two distinctly different components that played perfectly off one another.
Because of warm autumn temperatures, the Alliés harvest grapes at night, when the temperature ebbs a bit. The fruit is kept cool as it’s transported to the winery to guard against oxidation, which would spoil the fresh quality of the wine. Fermentation is temperature-controlled and carried out in stainless steel tanks, all to preserve what Guillaume calls “the edge” native to the Piquepoul variety.
In addition to the Picpoul de Pinet Terres Rouges, Domaine Reine Juliette produces a rosé made from Syrah and Grenache; red wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carignan, Syrah, and Grenache; and white wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer.
“What grows together, goes together.” We’ve all heard that, right? In this case, it’s a solid recommendation. Seafood is a huge part of the local economy here, and the nearby lagoons are the source of oysters, mussels, and native fish. In creating my pairing for this post, I didn’t question this conventional culinary wisdom.
I bought a pink-fresh swordfish steak and whipped up a salmoriglio sauce for its marinade. Then I put some new potatoes on to boil, chopped a mélange of fresh herbs, and made an arugula salad. I made enough of the salmoriglio sauce to add to the cooked potatoes and to dress my salad. (If you love lemon, garlic, and oregano, the more you make, the better!)
The result was delicious and made an inspired match with the wine. I worried that the wine’s full body would clash with the acidity of the salmoriglio: I needn’t have. The Picpoul’s racy acidity stood up to the lemon in the dish; and its floral aromas and full body were enhanced by the creamy, lemony potatoes with fresh basil and thyme. All I was missing as I sat at the table were a balmy Mediterranean breeze and a glimpse of the sea.
2016 Domaine Reine Juliette Picpoul de Pinet Terres Rouges (12.5% abv; $11.99 retail)
100% Piquepoul blanc
Color: Medium lemon, with flashes of green-gold at the edge.
Nose: Medium+ intensity aromas of lemon-lime, mingle with ripe green apple and pear. A hint of white peach. There is a floral element and a note of wet rocks that emerge after a few swirls.
Palate: Dry with medium+ acidity. Flavors are dominated by citrus – think lime more than lemon, along with white peach and pear. The finish is long, with a faint bitter note reminding me of grapefruit pith.
Verdict: A very happy surprise! I particularly enjoyed the ripe fruit profile in juxtaposition to the zippy acidity. The wine was an amiable food partner, as well, which means I will be stocking up for spring and summer – especially at that price! Sip it as an apéritif; pair it with seafood, chicken, or mild cheese. I look forward to trying it alongside a cheese soufflé with fresh corn (once corn hits the market, that is.)
So happy the Winophiles led me to rediscover Picpoul de Pinet – I’ve pegged it as my go-to wine for spring. It just might be yours, too!
About the French Winophiles
We’re a group of wine-loving foodies who gather (virtually) on the third Saturday of the month to share wine-pairing ideas, travel stories, and tasting notes on a particular theme. New members are always welcome so, if you’re interested in joining us, we’d love to have you. In May we head to Côtes de Bordeaux with our host, Michelle Williams of Rockin’ Red Blog fame. Should be a fun trip!