Picpoul de Pinet

Sure, it’s exciting to try a famous wine: a “cult” cab from Napa or a first growth from Bordeaux.

But I find it a lot more thrilling to taste a grape I’ve never tried before, especially when I have zero knowledge about the sort of wines it makes. When we traveled in Georgia (a sovereign nation in the Caucausus hehe), virtually ALL of the grapes were unknown to me. In Italy, each province had local grapes we’d never heard or seen before.

So this was my first Picpoul de Pinet – a white from southern France. (That’s about all I knew.) What would it taste like? Would it be aromatic? More like Chardonnay or more like Sauvignon Blanc or more like a Viognier?

Pic-a-boo! Who are you?

COLOR: Light yellow (NOT almost clear like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)

SMELL: Pear and lemon fruit, no obvious oak, no strong floral aromas

BODY: Medium-bodied with a very smooth feel

ACIDITY: Medium-high. Higher than a Chardonnay but lower than a Sauvignon Blanc.

FLAVORS: Tart lemon, a bit of pear/melon but with a savory bitterness/dryness at the end that was very unusual.

Did I enjoy it? Yes! (Although I think a decent percentage of people would find the bitter finish unpleasant.)

What would it taste great with? Seafood, I’d say. This is an oyster wine for sure.

What did it remind me of? A bit of Verdelho. A bit of unwooded Chardonnay.

WINEKNOW FACTS:

  • So Picpoul de Pinet is actually an AREA, and the grape is Picpoul.
  • Pinet is a small AOC (Defined Area) in Provence between Montpelier and Beziers
  • The Picpoul grape is a late-ripening variety; so it needs good, long summers
  • Picpoul translates as “lip stinger” for its acidity! (I still don’t find it as acidic as SB)
  • A Decanter magazine blog said this was a perfect seafood wine and compared it to Muscadet (from the Loire Valley) although I find Muscadet has more of a perception of sweetness than this Picpoul does
  • This wine is CHEAP! (usually around $10) and comes in a long-necked green bottle with a cool, cruciform logo embossed on the neck
  • Going to the coast? Seafood barbecue? This wine would kill it and you’d get respect for bringing something different.
  • I SHOULD HAVE HAD THIS IN MY “SUMMER WHITES” TASTING!

WineKnow “Summer Whites”

We recently hosted our third WineKnow tasting event on “Summer Whites.” It was our biggest turnout yet, with over 40 people crammed into our little house. The wines that made the biggest impact were Assyrtiko, Riesling, Furmint and Chenin Blanc.

Here’s the intro to my WineKnow tasting notes, with the full document attached:

*****

What exactly are “Summer Whites?” In my opinion, they are wines that are lighter-bodied, dry and with high acidity. In one word, refreshing.

When you’re hot and sweaty after a day at the beach, do you hanker for cold apple juice? No, because apple juice is generally sweet and a bit viscous. But lemonade? Grapefruit juice? Oh yeah!

It’s the same with wine. Sauvignon Blanc is the classic Summer White: highly acidic, lemon/lime or tropical fruits, sometimes a bit tart, maybe some savory grassiness. It’s basically adult lemonade. But we’ve all had a LOT of Sauvignon Blanc, so it’s time to expand our horizons.

Tonight we will be tasting nine different white wines from seven different countries. No Chardonnay. No Sauvignon Blanc. No Pinot Grigio. Nothing from the USA.

I’m guessing that you will have not tried half of these wines before. I’VE never tried two of these wines before!!

Remember: as ripeness/sugar levels rise, acidity falls. That’s why most of these Summer Whites are from cooler climates where it’s easier to maintain zippy acidity.

As you are tasting these wines, I want you to think about them relative to SB (acid), PG (neutral) and CD (round).

In particular, focus on:

  • Color: ranging from clear/transparent to golden yellow 
  • Acidity: that refreshing tingle on the tongue
  • Fruit: from Lime → Apple → Pear → Peach → Pineapple
  • Impact of oak ageing (butter, vanilla, oakiness), if any
  • Floral aromas, if any
  • Body (or viscosity) – a sign of higher alcohol, or fermentation on lees (dead yeast cells) etc.
  • ‘Minerality’: does it smell or taste like flint, pencil lead, chalk or salt?

Many of these wines will taste a bit or a lot like wines you’ve tried. Most of them will have something a bit different that makes them stand out. Try to isolate that component! Do you like it?

I hope that the next time you go to a party, you’ll bring the host a bottle of Assyrtiko! You and the bottle will make quite an impression!