Perfectly Puckery Piquepoul Blanc

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Before I started studying wine, I imagined there were only a few varieties of wine grapes: chardonnay, pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon, and the ever-popular merlot. Possibly there were a few others, but certainly not more than say, eight or ten. I was shocked to learn that there are literally thousands of varieties of grapes that hail from regions all around the world.

I love finding interesting wines made from little-known grapes. As much as I enjoy the big favorites like chardonnay and merlot, they do get a bit boring if you drink them frequently. It’s fun to shake it up and try wines with weird and wonderful names like “piquepoul blanc.” Wait – what?You probably have never heard of piquepoul blanc (also spelled picpoul blanc), a white grape hailing from the Rhone Valley and the Languedoc region in the south of France. But just wait – you will! Piquepoul blanc is being touted as the ultimate accompaniment to oysters and seafood in general. What a treat. And the best news of all is piquepoul blanc also pairs beautifully with roast poultry. Just in time for Thanksgiving!

The French are surely shrugging their shoulders at us. They’ve known about this little gem of a wine for centuries. Piquepoul blanc is one of the permitted blending grapes in the famed Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc. The French are well aware of how good it is and up until now, piquepoul blanc has been kind of a secret. But the cat’s out of the bag and the time has come for Americans to enjoy the pleasures of piquepoul blanc. As the holidays approach, this might be just the wine to offer at your Thanksgiving table for both flavor and intrigue.

Piquepoul means “lip stinger” in French. The acid in piquepoul blanc is very high and gives the wine a distinctly zippy quality. The citrusy freshness will make your mouth pucker with delight.  A fairly simple white wine, piquepoul blanc is light bodied with a nose of sweet, white flowers. The palate is dry and tangy with a bright, lemon acidity and a lingering minerality. When grown in a warm climate, piquepoul blanc offers lush notes of tropical fruit, such as pineapple and mango, and the wine can take on an almost buttery quality on the palate.

American and Australian wine producers seem to have discovered piquepoul blanc at the same time. New plantings of piquepoul blanc in South Australia and the New South Wales region have proved very popular and will likely lead to a true market demand for the tasty and refreshing wine Down Under. Best of all, it won’t be long before Aussie-produced piquepoul is imported to our side of the planet.

In the USA, piquepoul blanc is taking root in the popular winegrowing areas of California such as Sonoma, Santa Cruz, and Paso Robles. You can find locally produced piquepoul blanc up and down the California coast. Top vineyards such as Tablas Creek Vineyard and Adelaida Vineyards in Paso Robles produce a 100% Piquepoul Blanc that is well worth the trouble of seeking out. You can find a delicious bottle of 2016 “Picpoul” produced in Santa Cruz at the eclectic Bonny Doon Vineyards.

Interestingly enough, piquepoul blanc is also grown in the hot and sunny wine regions of Texas and Arizona. If piquepoul from the Southwest intrigues you, try a bottle of 2015 Picpoul Blanc from Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas, or check out the Picpoul Blanc blended with Viognier at Keeling Shaefer Vineyards in Willcox, Arizona.

Best of all, piquepoul blanc won’t break the bank. You generally won’t pay more than $32 for a bottle, and usually much less than that. French produced bottles can often be found for as little as $10.95. You’ll find fabulous piquepoul blanc from France at your favorite wine shop. Look for Domaine La Grangette, Picpoul de Pinet 2016, Julie Benau, 2016 Picpoul de Pinet, or La Croix Gratiot, 2016 Picpoul de Pinet from France’s Coteaux de Languedoc.  As ever, a little searching online will reap a bounty of wonderful piquepoul to whet both your curiosity and your thirst.

This sassy white wine is fun and different and offers a lot of bang for your buck. Try something new. Go grab a bottle or two of perfectly puckery piquepoul blanc for your Thanksgiving table. Your friends and family will thank you.

Bon appétit! And cheers!

 

Questions or comments? Email Elizabeth at 4elizabethkate@gmail.com. Follow her on Instagram at @ielizabethkate.

 

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