In France’s largest wine-growing region, Languedoc-Rousillon, there is a crisp, easy-drinking white wine presenting as a formidable opponent to even the most refreshing Pinot Grigio. Indeed, Picpoul de Pinet is an ancient, near-extinct wine that is on its way to becoming a household name. With mouthwatering acidity and crisp citrus flavor, it’s the perfect obscure wine that’s easy to pair with food or enjoyed poolside.
In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into Picpoul de Pinet wine, its growing region, tasting notes, serving recommendations, and of course, plenty of food pairings.
Characteristics of Picpoul de Pinet Wine
Picpoul de Pinet refers to the dry white wine made from the ancient grape Picpoul (also known as Picpoul Blanc), which grows in Langedoc-Rousillon’s Picpoul de Pinet AOC in southern France.
As for the Picpoul grape itself, some very minor plantings of this grape can be found in other regions of southern France, including the Rhône Valley. There are also growing plantings in Catalonia, Spain, Washington, and California.
While Picpoul de Pinet refers to the white wine made from Picpoul, there is also an even more rare, black-skinned mutation of this grape, known as Picpoul Noir. This grape is seldom seen on its own but rather as a blend or a very pale rosé in the Rhône and Languedoc regions.
Picpoul de Pinet Tasting Notes
Picpoul translates to “stings the lip,” referring to the wine’s incredibly bright, zippy acidity. Picpoul de Pinet is bone dry and light-medium in body, with a moderate alcohol level.
Until recently, it has been made with 100% stainless steel and enjoyed young so as to preserve its snappy acidity and crisp flavor.
However, some French winemakers are beginning to experiment with aging the wine on the lees (yeast), which imparts a more bready, toasted flavor. While this is still a new practice, it seems logical that Picpoul’s vibrant acidity would make it friendly to aging.
Picpoul de Pinet is usually a pale lemon color with a greenish tint reminiscent of Portugal’s vinho verde. Flavors of citrus, green fruit, wet stone, and blossoms are typical, along with a detectible minerality.
How to Serve
Picpoul de Pinet is best served in a standard white wine glass, well-chilled at around 40- 45F. Decanting is not necessary.
While Picpoul de Pinet refers to an appellation in Languedoc, the actual grape Picpoul can be found elsewhere in southern France and beyond. Below are some of its most notable regions.
As mentioned earlier, Languedoc is Picpoul’s premiere growing region and the only one with a specific AOC designation, the Picpoul de Pinet AOC. This is one of Languedoc’s only growing regions specifically designated for making white wine.
Picpoul de Pinet’s success in Languedoc is primarily due to the region’s balance of warm, hot summers with cool nights and a steady ocean breeze from the Mediterranean Sea.
This ocean breeze imparts Picpoul’s noticeable saline flavor, making it the ideal pairing wine for the seafood of southern France.
Expect flavors of vibrant lemon, green apple, wet stone, white blossoms, and saline.
Beyond Languedoc, there is also the Rhône Valley which has small plantings of Picpoul, among other lesser-known white grapes. Picpoul is one of the only six white grapes permitted to be used in the infamous Châteauneuf-du-Pape blends, along with Picpoul Noir.
California & Washington
While still very much in its infancy, Picpoul has been building a reputation in the states, which currently has just over 75 acres dedicated to the grape. It’s valued for its potential complexity and as a niche alternative to mainstream white wines like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
In California, most of Picpoul’s plantings are in Sonoma, which offers a similar Meditteranean climate with steady ocean breezes and warm, but rarely blistering, summers. In Washington, this grape can be found in eastern Washington in the Red Mountain AVA.
Picpoul de Pinet Food Pairings
Due to Picpoul de Pinet’s literal “stinging” acidity, it’s the ideal wine for pairing with classic southern French cuisine, emphasizing fresh ingredients, seafood, and delicate but flavorful sauces. Consider trying it with our Nicoise Salad (Salade Niçoise) or this Pistachio Crusted Salmon.
Beyond seafood and fresh veggies, Picpoul de Pinet is ideal for pairing with lean proteins, creamy sauces, and fried foods. It is fantastic with Fried Goat Cheese Balls or Crispy Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Parmesan Sauce!
For any food pairing when you’d otherwise select a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, consider Picpoul instead. Until the market becomes the wiser, it’s still an excellent bang for your buck and is guaranteed to impress your fellow wine lovers. Shout out your favorite food and wine pairings with Picpoul de Pinet below!