My apologies if this news annoys you, but by the time you read this, I will be in the Languedoc. My wife and I go to the same area most years, accompanied by whichever of our children deign to grace us with their presence. And whenever we drink white wine down there, we drink Picpoul de Pinet.
Picpoul de Pinet is a cru within the enormous Côteaux du Languedoc AOC, bordered on the south by the Bassin de Thau, a lagoon in the Mediterranean, which has an important moderating influence on growing conditions. Total producing area is around 1,500 hectares. That’s not a lot, but production has roughly tripled in the last 20 years, and Picpoul has a devoted local following.
Picpoul de Pinet is the name of the cru but Picpoul blanc is the name of the grape variety. There is allegedly a Picpoul rouge — I’ve never seen evidence of it.
As a variety, Picpoul avoids extremes. It does not produce really great wine, and I’m not sure it ever could. The compensation is that it almost never produces a stinker. Expect wines with 12-13.5 per cent alcohol; fruit qualities variously described as citrussy, spicy and nutty; an abundance of very fresh and refreshing acidity, and reasonable price tags.
I know what you’re thinking. “This guy is in love with a holiday wine that no one in their right mind would drink back in the UK.” Think again. Think about Picpoul de Pinet 2011, Domaine Reine Juliette (Lea & Sandeman, www.leaandsandeman.co.uk), £8.95 or £7.95 if you buy a case. Think about Tesco Finest Picpoul de Pinet 2010, £7.49. Think about Picpoul de Pinet 2011, Domaine Felines (Waitrose, £8.99). And those are not the only UK retailers selling Picpoul. Adnams and Slurp.co.uk are just two others that I know about.
See? I’m not the only who’s been smitten. So go on — join le Club de Picpoul.