If you like a Sauvignon or Pinot Grigio but fancy a change, this chic little number from near the Med could be just for you this summer.
You might recognise it from gastro-pubs or restaurant wine lists, but this southern French wine is becoming more mainstream. It gets its name from the Picpoul grape grown in the area around Pinet, broadly between Beziers and Montpellier. It’s a hot place, but because of its proximity to the sea which is literally minutes away, it tastes surprisingly fresh and cooling. It’s little like Muscadet, the bracing bistro classic, but lemony aromatic Picpoul is much more easy-drinking.
Like Muscadet, it’s at home with fish and seafood and with good reason. Many of the vines practically overlook the Etang de Thau, a spectacular lagoon and one of Europe’s largest oyster beds. Historically Picpoul was one of several grapes blended into the base wines for Noilly Prat vermouth produced locally in the pretty port town of Marseillan – well worth a visit if you’re in the area – but now it gets star-billing on its own.
The overall quality of Picpoul de Pinet is consistently high because most of it is produced by large co-operatives, fermenting it at cool temperatures, bottling it young under screwcaps, all helping to preserve that lively citruss freshness. We’re developing quite a taste for it here in the UK and we now account for a third of its sales. Consistently good examples are available from local supermarkets, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Waitrose and Morrisons, Riaz at Stonewines has one, as does The Wine Society and all are priced £8 to £11 (although Aldi’s comes in at just £6.49).
Personally, it’s one of my favourites. For a number of years, I’ve been fortunate to regularly holiday on this stretch of the French coast and Picpoul is pitch-perfect summer drinking. With all the current uncertainties (without mentioning the B-word), you may as well stock up now.
Images courtesy of Beauvignac Caveau de Mèze (main image) and Salicorne Port Rive Gauche (Marseillan).