Not so long ago, the name ‘Picpoul de Pinet’ would have meant nothing to all but a tiny minority of wine lovers. Today, while still not widely known, this crisp, dry white from the Languedoc region in the south of France is beginning to establish a reputation. And, surprisingly, much of the credit for that change must go to Britain’s major supermarkets, most of whom now have an example in their premium ranges. Take Tescos:
their ‘Finest’ Picpoul is just £7 a bottle but is delightfully refreshing with lovely herby, citrusy flavours and enough richness to suggest it would be a perfect accompaniment to many creamy fish or shellfish dishes. And, it’s not just the supermarkets who are selling Picpoul – Majestic’s Villemarin (£8.99) and the Wine Society’s Domaine Félines-Jourdan (my favourite example and great value at £8.50) mean that it is readily available for those who are looking for something just a little different – but nothing too scary!
Picpoul, the name of the grape variety (occasionally spelt Piquepoul), apparently translates as ‘lip stinger’ in the local dialect (but don’t let that put you off); its home is a tiny area between the towns of Pézenas and Mèze overlooking the Bassin de Thau, a glorious nature reserve within a stone’s throw of the Mediterranean. Apart from this one wine, this part of the Languedoc is an area far better known for its reds – the southern French sun and heat are too much for most whites. But not Picpoul – it retains its acidity and freshness and provides a very welcome glass chilled on a hot day.
And, thanks to the supermarkets, before long, more wine lovers will be able to pick up a Picpoul.