Is picpoul de Pinet the new chardonnay? Three years ago, you never saw it on restaurant wine lists or supermarket shelves. Now, it’s everywhere. I’m not complaining – for me, it’s like summer in a glass.
I remember the 1990s, when chardonnay was everywhere. Unfortunately, a lot of it was over-oaked, overblown versions from the New World. Eventually, people had enough and sought out its exact opposite instead: pinot grigio. This subtle wine has made many Italian wine makers a lot of money over the past decade.
Now, however, people are blending it. I even saw a pinot grigio-chardonnay blend recently. Presumably, its maker didn’t get the memo about what people like about pinot grigio.
So, we are in need of a new ubiquitous wine.
Picpoul de Pinet could easily fit the bill. The wine comes from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, just inland from the Mediterranean. Specifically, it is grown in the area around the village of Pinet, near the Bassin de Thau. In the hills between Sete and Pezenas, there are large terraced vineyards planted with the local picpoul grape.
Both picpoul – or piquepoul, as it’s sometimes spelled – and picpoul de Pinet are available. The ‘de Pinet’ simply denotes where it’s from. The other difference is that picpoul de Pinet was granted appellation contrôlée status in 1985 and since then, its growers have concentrated on making the wines better and better.
Perhaps that explains why it’s now exported too.
Its green-gold colour and round, full-flavoured style makes it a more interesting drink than pinot grigio. It goes especially well with seafood. (I took the photo above on Brighton beach, from a Spanish restaurant where I was enjoying a seafood tapas selection.)
The good news is that picpoul de Pinet remains an inexpensive wine that will do well in the middle market. Let’s just hope we don’t start finding shockingly ill-advised blends of it on our supermarket shelves before too long.