Every time I travel to the store to purchase a new bottle of wine, it is like a little adventure, which typically is filled with indecision. There are so many styles to try, regions to visit, and new stories to hear that I often have a hard time making up my mind. I wish I could bring everything home, but due to a lack of storage on my wine rack (and not wanting to look like a complete lush), I am forced to make decisions.
This time, the decision was fairly easy since a favorite retailer of mine in Newport, Kentucky was offering samples of a wine that I had never tried or heard of before: Picpoul de Pinet Cuvee Prestige, from France.
Picpoul de Pinet specifically refers to white wine from the Languedoc region of France made exclusively from Piquepoul blanc. Although most popular in its blanc form, Piquepoul or Picpoul grapes can also be found as blush and black. Holding a high reputation since early 17th century, Picpoul is one of the oldest domestic grapes in the Lanquedoc region. First assumed as poison, botanist J.B. Maniol later recognized it to be one of the best grape varieties for winemaking.
Sadly, at the end of the 19th century, phylloxera—an insect blamed for vine plagues—invaded France. Subsequently, due to its low yield and susceptibility to diseases, the Picpoul grape was not widely replanted. Now commonly used as a blending grape, it seems somewhat uncommon to find a wine entirely made from Piquepoul blanc grapes. But as modern winemaking techniques advance, the fear of fungus and disease has diminished and interest for the grape has increased once more.
A late budding grape, picpoul translates to “lip-stinger”. This refers to the high acidity in the grapes before fermentation, which later leads to a nice lemony and zesty, greenish-gold wine. The acidity also allows the wine to pair well with shellfish because it helps neutralize the salt and iodine present in crustaceans.
This specific Picpoul de Pinet, produced by Les Vignobles Foncalieu, is part of a cooperative effort. A somewhat common practice in the industry, a cooperative in this case is when producers and wineries team up to gain access to the best resources, ensuring that the resulting wine is high quality and properly represents the identity of the region. Foncalieu has also managed to successfully blend modern and traditional winemaking techniques, creating what they describe as the finest wines available from their region of France.
Having never tried it before, I was not sure what to expect. But I must say I rather enjoyed this wine. It was very bright, but had a sense of delicacy about it as well. I picked up on distinct, zesty, citrus flavors, and there was a great deal of acidity present—something I love in white wine.
Since, admittedly, I had never had this kind of wine before, it was hard to make a true judgment call about it. I certainly liked it, but I didn’t fall in love with it either. My taste buds prefer more acidic white wines. But, I sampled this with my father and he felt as though it was “sour.” So, I would only suggest this to those with a similar palette to mine. And I would agree with the vintner that it probably is best enjoyed with shellfish.
Although Picpoul de Pinet has been around for centuries, I love that in my little quest, I am awarded the opportunity to try things that are new to me! The wine industry is fantastic like that; it always offers the opportunity for new experiences.
Vitner: Les Vignobles Foncalieu
Location: Lanquedoc, France
Description: White Wine
Approximate price: $9.99
Photo by Tony Frantz