The Grape Glossary: a guide to hip varietals
There is, at first glance, nothing obviously cool about piquepoul. Take the odd name. "Peek-pool" sounds more like a character in a French farce or a voyeur at a waterpark than the next "it" variety. It's also associated with a long-necked green bottle, the sort most consumers today tend to approach with fear and trembling – if they approach it at all.
None of this has kept a gaggle of wine critics from singing piquepoul's praises. A zingy white from France's Mediterranean shore, it's just the thing for light seafood, the "muscadet of the Languedoc," they say, or the "new pinot grigio." What piquepoul also happens to be is simple, fun, refreshing and affordable, at usually between $10 and $15.
Shopper alert: You'd be hard-pressed to find "piquepoul" on a label. What you're more likely to see is "picpoul" with a "c," as in Picpoul de Pinet, the odd white-wine appellation in the red-dominated Languedoc region, where piquepoul the grape excels as a varietal wine. In other words, the best piquepouls come from Picpoul de Pinet.
It's hot down there, a better climate generally for red grapes that need time in the sun to ripen fully. But white piquepoul (there's a lesser known red variant as well) has performed well for centuries in the area mainly because of its unusual capacity to retain acidity in the heat. That trait has also stood the grape well as a blending partner, helping inject verve into such multigrape, fleshy southern wines as white Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Lean, citrus-scented and crisp, often with a delicate floral aroma, Picpoul de Pinet will never be a serious blockbuster. Most of the production is churned out by a few co-operatives, such as Les Costières de Pomérols and Cave de l'Ormarine, which source fruit from hundreds of growers. But some come from smaller, more recherché outfits, among them Domaine de Belle Mare, Domaine de Creyssels and Domaine Félines Jourdan. Either way, piquepoul is a bright taste of a sunny place.
The Flavour Principle by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol (HarperCollins) won top prize for best general English cookbook at the 2014 Taste Canada Food Writing Awards.