The diversity of Picpoul de Pinet
Picpoul de Pinet has enjoyed an enormous wave of popularity in recent years. There is hardly a restaurant in London that does not offer a Picpoul de Pinet and we do tend to simply ask for a glass of Picpoul without any consideration of the producer’s name. In fact, although it comes from one relatively small area by the étang de Thau around the village of Pinet and from just one grape variety, it can be remarkably varied in flavour, from the simplest of wines to something with more weight and complexity. You may also find oak-aged versions, but I don’t think those are to be encouraged, and you may also find sparkling and sweet versions which are more successful. The two cooperatives of Pinet and Pomerols produce the bulk of the appellation and they both work well for their appellation.
I visited the coop in Pinet, the Cave de l'Ormarine, last month and was very impressed with what I tasted. They have a welcoming shop, so do go and check it out if you are in the vicinity.
2016 Carte Noire – 4.45€
This is Picpoul de Pinet at its simplest and most refreshing. The aim is a wine that is fresh with some lemony fruit and good acidity. It is made from grapes that are less ripe and has a dry stony nose and a fresh lemony palate with good acidity on the finish. Picpoul never undergoes a malo-lactic fermentation as they want above all to retain the acidity
2016 Duc de Morny – 5.35€
This comes from older vines with riper grapes and is given six hours’ cool skin contact before fermentation. There is a salty note on the nose and the palate has more weight, so that it is dry and flinty with more concentration. Definitely a step up in extra depth and weight.
2016 Picpoul sur lees – 5.75€
This is given lees stirring until February and comes from a selection of grapes from better vineyards, with lower yields. It has the firm salty nose that is the hallmark of good Picpoul and the palate is very saline, very mineral with length and characterful. It will also develop in bottle. I also subsequently tried a magnum from the 2015 vintage and it had evolved beautifully with more depth and salinity.
2016 l’Effet Mer – 8.80€
This is mainly intended for the seaside restaurants. It comes in a pretty transparent bottle with a blue design and is a blend of 80% Picpoul sur lees tempered with 20% Duc de Morny with some fruit and a fresh sappy palate with good acidity.
In 2016 they also tried making a wine without sulphur, Esprit Libre. However, it turned out rather atypical, with quite a golden colour and a riper rounded, more solid nose and palate with a streak of tannin. An interesting experiment but I would prefer the Picpoul sur lees.
The sparkling wine, Vin Mousseux de Qualité, méthode traditionnelle Extra Brut 100% Piquepoul, as the grape variety is usually spelt, has improved considerably since the last time I tried it. The wine spends eighteen months on the lees. The bottles are disgorged by a competent sparkling wine producer in Burgundy, without any dosage. The wine is light golden in colour and a combination of dry honey with a tang of saltiness, with some fresh fruit on the palate. 8.30€ a bottle.
Unfortunately, they had run out of their Vendange Tardive – none was made in 2016. It would come from grapes that have been dried on the vines and picked two months later. That will be for another time.