The Rich Have One More Thing You Don’t: This Value White Wine From the South of France

J.R. Flaherty

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If you are after something a little different to celebrate the end of this year and like the fresh aromatics of Sauvignon Blanc, you may like this little secret white wine from the south of France. As friends who serve wines on yachts in the Mediterranean to the Caribbean say, it's currently the wine of the ultra-rich.

It may be in vogue with the rich and beautiful, but it's origins are very humble.

Picpoul de Pinet is from a small rural area on the edge of the Mediterranean in France. For most of its history, it was a humble worker's town. The region became famous by celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot visiting the South of France in the 1950s. Many stars have holiday homes around this area, including Tina Turner, Bono, and Johnny Depp. Picpoul de Pinet is the local wine in the area.

It is scorching in summer when the grapes are being grown, but the sea breezes cool the grapes down, so they end up having a vivid freshness in the glass. The acidity is an asset in this baking hot region. Otherwise, the wine would have the texture of old yellow apples left out in the sun, if you can imagine that. The acidity brightens it up. And the quality has increased ten-fold in the past ten years.

Once known for their high acidity (in local parlance, it is known as a "lip-stinger," it used to be grown to be distilled as white vermouth.

Local people have enjoyed Picpoul with fresh seafood pulled from the Mediterranean and the famous fish stew called Bouillabaisse. Sometimes even a few glasses even go into the pot.

At home, you may want to hand your friends a glass before eating. It makes a refreshing drink and is lighter than all cocktails at around 12.5%. It zings and zips across the palate.

It is becoming quite popular with younger people, and if you love bright Sauvignon Blancs, you will enjoy it. It has a fresh lemony flavor, which will prepare your palate for a feast ahead.

Look out for wines with AC (Appellation Controlee) in the name or controlled wine region. French wines are better if they are under the AC regulations. Unlike other wines, it has a distinctive bottle. It is always in an elegant, long, thin, green bottle, the glass branded with the cross of the Languedoc-Roussillon and "waves" indented around the bottleneck.

Picpoul de Pinet is a French white wine from Pinet near the Etang de Thau on the Mediterranean coast, north of Agde. You may even see a flock of pink flamingoes flying south if you are ever there in winter.

It's quite easy to travel there direct on a train from Paris or Lille (which connects with the London-Paris Eurostar). Even if you can not make it to the South of France, with travel restrictions across the world, you can always dream. And enjoy the tastes of this beautiful region in this delicious, mouth-watering wine. You'll soon be imagining you are on a yacht without a care in the world.

Here are seven facts about this fascinating white wine called Picpoul de Pinet. There’s a lot more to this easy white wine from Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France than you may expect.

Seven Facts About Picpoul de Pinet

1. One-third of all Picpoul de Pinet production is sold outside of France

1.57 million bottles were drunk in 2017/2018 compared to 1.08 million in 2016/2017 – an increase of 46%. That’s a lot of after-work drinks. It's taken off outside of France than inside France, where it is seen as a traditional wine.

2. The Picpoul de Pinet bottle is called a Neptune

Since 1995, Picpoul de Pinet must be in a sleek green bottle. Up close, you will find it has three symbols on the glass: the waves of the sea around the neck of the bottle; the cross of its home in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon; and columns along the base of the bottle as a nod to Roman Doric columns. It must have all three to be a real Picpoul de Pinet.

3. The white “Picquepoul” was originally a black grape

Piquepoul is the white grape of Picpoul de Pinet. Pinet is the town. Stay with me. Picpoul de Pinet may be a white grape today, but records in the 1300s suggest it has changed its identity over the centuries by a genetic mutation.

4. Picpoul vs. the grape apocalypse

The vine louse called phylloxera nearly wiped out the world’s vines in the late 18th century. Thankfully, the Piquepoul grape survived because it thrives on sandy soils, fatal to the vine pest.

5. Picpoul de Pinet plus Oysters is a perfect food and wine match

In 1971, a local mayor in the South of France held an event to celebrate “the marriage” of Picpoul de Pinet and Bouzigues oysters. Since then, it has become a classic food and wine partnering. The lemony flavors of Picpoul de Pinet mean it’s happy ever after.

6. Only white Piquepoul grapes are allowed to be grown around Pinet

Piquepoul is the only approved variety in the Pinet region. This had a positive effect when introduced as a law in 1985 – doubling Picpoul de Pinet sales over the next decade.

7. Picpoul means “lip-stinger.”

As discussed above, this is an easy fun fact – if you don’t remember anything, remember this fact: Picpoul means “lip stinger” in the local dialect. You may never know when you might need it.

Conclusion

Picpoul de Pinet white wine is a fresh, salty, lip- stinging, eye-opening effervescence and has a real taste of the South of France. As popular as the Italian sparkling wine called Prosecco, it’s also kind to the wallet, but Picpoul de Pinet stands apart for its small production volume. It’s that strange combination: rare and popular.

Just because this year is unlike any other, the fundamentals remain the same. The end of the year is a time to relax, eat well and catch up with family (even if on Zoom this year). You may not be seeing as many people this year, but you can enjoy some inspiration in your food and drinks.

When much of the world is unable to travel, this distinctive wine will take you there. Why not have a holiday while you are at home? It's the perfect match with hors d'oeuvres before a holiday feast, and the (still) low price is something to toast. #nbholidaycheer

Photo by Polina Kovaleva from Pexels

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