I can hardly believe that in 400 wines of the week this is the first time I've featured a Picpoul de Pinet. Fitting neatly and appealingly between the neutrality of Pinot Grigio and the assertiveness of Sauvignon Blanc, Picpoul is one of the most popular of dry white wines, so how did I overlook it?
My only excuse, and it’s not much of one, is that it's so familiar to me I didn't notice I wasn't recommending it. Anyway, here we are now with as refreshing a Picpoul as you could want from an estate south of the village of Pinet – and just in time for the start of the Britain's native oyster fishing season tomorrow.
If oysters aren’t your bag, there are other food pairing possibilities (see below), but you might just want to soak up the subtle blossom and zingy lemon-lime flavours, the dab of lemony crème fraiche and the reviving sea-breeze salinity as an apéro.
Picpoul de Pinet is an unusual wine in many ways. It’s the vast Languedoc region’s only appellation exclusively for dry white wine and for a single grape variety. It’s one of only a few French AOPs (aka appellation contrôlées) to take the name of its grape variety, Picpoul (or Piquepoul Blanc), and it’s a crisp, springy wine with high acidity from a hot Mediterranean climate.
The grape variety and the vineyards’ coastal location beside the Étang de Thau are the keys. Piquepoul is fairly late ripening and its natural high acidity hangs on in there, constantly refreshed by the salty sea breezes that sweep across the huge lagoon.
Picpoul de Pinet as a partner for oysters is a classic example of 'what grows together goes together’: 13,000 tonnes of oysters (huîtres de Bouzigues) are harvested in the lagoon annually, alongside other shellfish, especially mussels, with which Picpoul is also a star. Other good matches are simple white fish dishes, squid, tempura, sushi, salads (such as Greek salad), feta and goats cheeses.
Cave de L'Ormarine Villemarin Picpoul de Pinet 2022, Languedoc, France
£9.99 in any 6-bottle mix, Majestic; £11.99, single bottle