Picpoul de Pinet. A curious name for a grape and a wine and one that we should all know.
Once you know the Picpoul grape the south of France and near the seaside, you will understand why this appellation that stretches between Pezenas and Sete is so important to the wine world.
To the wine aficionado, Picpoul is the Muscadet of the south. Similar in the sense that the grape is floral, lemony fresh, acidic and full of minerality.
Originally, Picpoul was used in blends, but, wine drinkers and winemakers have discovered its bright acidity, saline characteristics, crisp minerality and appeal to pair with seafood as a perfect reason to bottle this unique grape on its own.
Southern France is home to oysters and mussels, a perfect match for Picpoul, as you can see from the photos. After talking to locals about Picpoul, I realized that they recite what Picpoul de Pinet is to the locals. They call it, ‘Son terroir, c’est la mer’, translated means,’Its terroir is the sea.’
The Picpoul grape is grown in southern France and in Rhone for Chateauneuf de Pape, where the grape is permitted in the blend.
The Picpoul guru is Guy Bascou, president of the appellation who was our tour guide during our visit. He said that the closeness to the ocean keeps the moisture high enough to guide the grape through its vinification process. He emphasized that the maturity of the grape is here because the heir apparent has chosen to follow in their parents footsteps. Bascou mentioned that the grape ripens late and is perfect for the probable climate change in the future. He said that Picpoul retains acid and will be the grape for global change, if that happens sooner than later.
It is also the grape that pairs perfectly with oysters. Many of the vineyards overlook the Etang de Thau, an oyster bed where close to 90% of France’s oysters are harvested.
At the Picpoul winemakers event that I attended (see photos), I’m sure that I had ten dozen oysters paired with a dozen local wines-all Picpol de Pinet. The combination plus the versatility of the hosts made this an event that one will remember for their lifetime. Add wild mussels and homemade sausage to the menu with Picpoul de Pinet and you will quickly realize that there is nothing better for the palate. The local winemakers for AOP Picpoul de Pinet, our hosts, called the dish, Mouclade, a name I will never forget.
This once in a lifetime experience was made possible by Terroirs & Millesimes, organized by CIVL, the Inter-professional Committee for Languedoc and Sud de France.
I am part French, grew up in New Orleans and have deep seafood roots- I must admit that this Picpoul and oyster/mussel experience out shadowed any other seafood/wine experiences that I have had in my life.
There are many producers who export Picpoul de Pinet. The UK seems to buy a third of their exports, but, there is a lot of room for the U.S. to jump aboard. Ask your wine merchant for Picpoul de Pinet. It is a wine that should be on your radar-especially if you enjoy seafood the way I do.
Philip S. Kampe