With its very name meaning “Lip-Stinger” I think you can tell where we are going with this week’s lesser known varietal. Yes, it’s a startlingly acidic white grape that can be found for the most part in the Rhône valley and the Languedoc… and strangely enough there’s also a splash of it grown at Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, California where it is usually blended with Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, but is occasionally bottled varietally.
Having grown on the shores of the Thau lagoon for centuries, Piquepoul is actually one of the Languedoc’s most ancient varietals. Indeed there are records entitled the “Sylve plantarium” from around 1618 written by botanist J.B. Maniol which cite Piquepoul as one of the best known Languedoc grapes. Like many of the more interesting varietals it fell out of favour after the replantings following the French phylloxera blight of the mid-nineteenth century due to its predilection to fall foul of fungal problems and its relatively low yields.
Like most of these obscure grapes Piquepoul “don’t get no respect”… which is a pity as, double negatives aside, it is capable of producing some deliciously crisp, mineral-driven, and food-friendly wine. Simple and yet structured and most charming in a refreshing lemony manner, hence making it the very best of foils for shellfish and crustaceans, neutralising the inherent salt and iodine. It also pairs rather wonderfully with lighter soft cheeses and charcuterie.
Piqupoul even has its own special Appellation d’Origine Controlée along the southwestern French coast between Montpelier and Beziers, a tiny 3,000 acre sub region of the sizeable Côteaux de Languedoc, called Picpoul de Pinet.
Also of interest is the fact that along with Clairette Blanche it provides the base wine for the Languedoc vermouth Noilly Prat, not the most noble claim to fame, but an interesting factoid nonetheless.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… Lip-Stinger… he likes that.