A Delightful Spring Sipper: Picpoul De Pinet

New World Picpoul de Pinet (from the Tablas Creek Vineyard blog)

An exchange I heard last summer at a local bar during lunch has stuck with me for almost a year now.

“Ew, I’m not going to date him.”

“Why not?”

“He’s a Sauvignon Blanc drinker!”

At which point I glanced down at the glass of wine in my hand and died a little inside.

Sauvignon Blanc has set the standard for summer sippers among the acid-cravers among us. “When in doubt, go with New Zealand” is the mantra for those of us who crave a wine drier than the Sahara when perusing a wine list in the outdoor seating of a restaurant in summertime.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

A grape that’s beginning to grow in popularity in the New World is Piquepoul Blanc, grown almost exclusively as a varietal wine in the Picpoul de Pinet region in France, though it is permitted as a blending grape in Chateauneuf du Pape. One of the oldest grapes cultivated in Languedoc, Piquepoul Blanc takes its name from the incredible acidity of the grapes “piquing” the lips of those who drink it. It’s a reliably dry, citrusy affair, and the controlled, limited production of the grape ensures an even better average quality than Sauvignon Blanc.

I’ve given a few of these guys a try, and in fact reviewed one last year, and I wanted to share my experience with another one with you “Sauvignon  Blanc Drinkers” to see if maybe there’s another white wine out there for you. You know, just in case it’s hindering your dating life.

Today, we’re covering the 2009 Font Mars Picpoul de Pinet, a wine that I was delighted to see on the menu of West End Wine Bar in Chapel Hill.

Chateau Font Mars Picpoul De PinetThe Picpoul de Pinet has a very light straw color with a spectacular luminosity. The nose is very appealing, though much, much less fruity than other Picpouls I’ve tried, with a very minerally, soapy scent. It’s like swirling a glass of creek water with a slice of lime dropped in it.

As far as the mouth feel is concerned, it is extraordinarily tangy, extremely dry, with a very full texture, though the acidity feels lower than other Picpouls. The flavors are bright and crisp, with a burst of minerals on the attack with all the flavorful grace of a wet rock.  The lime flavor comes forward after the initial minerals fade away along with some light tropical notes, though only the lime remains lingering on a medium finish. I want to describe the flavors as delicate, but they’re hefty enough to balance out a decent acidity.

Probably the best way for me to describe this wine is “delightful, but plain,” a term that easily applies to 99% of New World Sauvignon Blancs. At $12, it’s a decent value and sure to please the dry white palates in your life. 6/10

My next goal? Try a New World Picpoul. Tablas Creek has one. Maybe I’ll see what Paso Robles has in store for me…

The Wine: Picpoul De Pinet

Producer: Chateau Font Mars

Vintage: 2009

Region: Picpoul de Pinet, Coteaux du Languedoc, France

Varieties: 100% Piquepoul Blanc

Alcohol: 12.5%

Price: $10

Yet Another Summer Wine Value

The Back Story:

As you may have gathered by now, I’m a big promoter of two trends in wine: local production and organic and sustainable winemaking. Usually I discover these facts about a winery before I try their wares, as I actively seek out local and organic wines. This time, however, I didn’t figure out this particular wine was organic until the second bottle around, after I’d already taken my notes on it.

Which wine? Chateau Petit Roubié‘s 2009 Picpoul de Pinet. An impulse buy as I dashed through my local organic food shop (Weaver Street Market), the Picpoul was a varietal I hadn’t had in some time, and I wanted to rectify it in a hurry. I was pleasantly surprised by its complexity and crispness. As you also may have gathered, I love a high, aggressive acidity in my white wines despite my propensity for getting heartburn. When this shop gets in a new wine, I’m always eager to try it.

Certified organic since 2001, Chateau Petit Roubié embraces a poetically simple organic attitude:

Feed the soil to feed the plant, stimulate the biological activity of the soil, help the plant to resist disease and pests without contaminating the environment, avoid trace residue, maintain as far as possible an integrity with regard to the natural surroundings. These are the basic objectives of biological farming.

Petit Roubié claims Picpoul as their AOC. While they offer their red varietals of Alicante, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Merlot, and Syrah and white varietals of Carignan Blanc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Sèmillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Terret Bourret, and Viognier as vin de pays in the spirit of their region, their wine proudly contributes to the 2000 year old Picpoul tradition as a village wine in the area.

You can explore all the producers in the Picpoul de Pinet region here. For now, let’s focus on the wine at hand…

The Results:

Chateau Petit Roubie Picpoul GlassThe appearance of the wine is a light golden color with a medium viscosity and a slight green tint.

The nose of the wine is comprised largely of citrus and orchard fruits, though there’s a floral component. Lemon and pear are largely featured, as is a slightly sweet honeyed scent.

The mouth feel of the wine is on the heavier side of medium-bodied, with a tangy, full, creamy texture.

The flavor of the wine is very full, very crisp, very dry, with massive fruit forwardness, primarily citrus. Green apple and lemon match a puckering acidity very well on the attack, and pineapple and mineral flavors persist through the finish, which is moderate. The wine is bone dry but well-balanced. They say “drink it young at 8°C”, or under 50°F, and this is assuredly a drink-now affair; it’ll do just fine practically right out of the fridge tomorrow. The wine’s flavor did suffer heavily as it warmed, so make sure you keep this one on ice.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is yet another strong, refreshing white wine built for the summer days. It’s a value buy, not just a bargain, at $11, as my mate Steve Paulo at Notes From The Cellar will gladly and bluntly differentiate. It delivers a beautiful balance, a full-bodied flavor, and a complexity beyond the typical Sauvignon Blanc-esque summer fare. With pleasant, agreeable citrus flavors and a palpable acidity, it’ll make a good pairing for any of your spicy seafood endeavors. Just make sure you keep it cool… the wine begins to lose its crispness and takes on a bitter flavor as it gets warmer.

The Conclusion:

This might be one of those wines where a subjective concept of balance comes into play. Personally, I love the acidity on this wine, though it might  be offputting or overwhelming to some palates. I believe it sustains the flavor very well without contributing a sour or bitter undertone. If acidic wines are your thing, Picpoul is a varietal for you, and this particular one is a great value look at a very focused, up-and-coming wine-making region in Languedoc. 7/10

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Picpoul de Pinet

Producer: Chateau Petit Roubie

Region: Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France

Varietal(s): 100% Picpoul

Vintage: 2009

Residual Sugar: unknown

Alcohol: 12.5%

pH: unknown

Price: $11

Purchased at: Weaver Street Market (Hillsborough, NC)

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