A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Picpoul de Pinet - Coteaux du Languedoc, France

I buy a lot of wine, and like any wine lover, I have my favorite shops. There are some places that I go to for all my Bordeaux needs, some places I go for my value wine needs and still other places I go for my fringe wine kicks. The Gypsy Kitchen in Quincy Center, MA, is definitely one of my favorites for value wines and off-the-beaten path adventures. Lisa Lamme's selection is always interesting and she's very knowledgeable about every bottle on her shelves. In addition to her nice wine selection, she also has a great variety of imported cheeses and cured meats. She's a hot sauce aficionado who founded the first store devoted to hot sauce in the country. She even has a cookbook coming out which you can pre-order on amazon.com or through her virtual storefront. On my last visit to her shop, I loaded up on some fringe wines, and will be writing here about a Picpoul de Pinet I picked up for $10.

Picpoul Blanc is a little known grape grown in the Rhone valley (where it is one of the 13 grapes allowed in the Cheateauneuf-du-Pape blend) and the Languedoc region of France primarily, though there are small plantings in other parts of the world. This particular bottling is from the Languedoc, a massive wine region in the south of France. The Languedoc produces more wine than any other region on earth and is responsible for 1/3 of the French output. For years, most of the production coming out of this region was ordinary, nondescript juice destined for bulk wine consumption, but recently there has been a stronger focus on quality production from many producers in the area. Within the Languedoc, there are several sub-appellations, of which Picpoul de Pinet is one. Wines from this region must be made from 100% Picpoul Blanc grapes sourced from one of six local communes. The name "picpoul" literally means "lip stinger."

The producer of my bottling was La Chapelle de la Bastide and the vintage was 2009. In the glass, the wine had a pale straw color. The nose was a bit reserved with some melon and flower components and a whiff of creamy pear. On the palate, my first written impression was "lean and stony." The wine had a light body and medium to medium plus acidity, which surprised me given the etymology of the grape's name. There was a lot of wet stone minerality as well as some light lemon flavors. It reminded me of being in a restaurant where they keep lemon slices in the water pitchers. You can definitely pick up some lemon flavor, but it's faint and very far in the background.

I should note that the tasting notes above were written when I first removed the wine from the refrigerator. I always try, with white wines, to taste them at several different temperatures, as over-chilling them can blunt many of their most interesting characteristics. I thought this wine really hit its stride with a medium-chill on it, when it had been sitting on the counter for about half an hour. The lemon flavors definitely moved closer to the front with a little time on the counter. Lemon peel dominated the nose and beginning of the attack, fading into those nice stony minerals as the wine finished. As the wine approached room temperature, the lemon flavors faded again and there were more round melon and floral qualities to the nose and palate. The wine behaved like a Sauvignon Blanc mixed with Chenin Blanc with a little Muscadet and Riesling thrown in for good measure. It's an absolute slam-dunk with shellfish and light seafood and could probably stand up to an acidic chicken dish like a piccata. It's light and refreshing enough to be served as an apertif as well. All in all, it's a very nice, crisp offering that I wish I'd uncorked in July rather than November.

Please see this post for a more recent tasting note from another Picpoul-based wine.

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