Hopefully this is the last of the winter chill in Southwest Florida so we can turn our thoughts to warm weather activities and the lighter foods from the sea. There are a lot of good wines to pair with the fish and shellfish; a recent favorite for many has been Albarino from Riax Baixas in the northwest corner of Spain. With discovery has come a move up the price scale so for those of us looking for a solid wine on a budget let’s not forget the Languedoc area in France. Roughly parallel to Riax Baixas, Languedoc is long known for producing generic Vin de Pays and juice for blending in other parts of France, however, in the last few years the area has come into its own as a source for good value wines carrying the Languedoc AOC on the label. One great choice is Picpoul, usually labeled as Picpoul De Pinet; it is a really good wine for light salads and fish that grace our tables in the summer heat.
There are a lot of labels out there and I have noticed what is available this year may not be found the next, but isn’t that part of the wine experience, finding new tasty treats. While the label may change as a rule the wines are all dry, light and clean finishing white wines that you can serve at table or alone on a warm Florida day. The bottle I sampled for Languedoc Day last month was a Picpoul De Pinet from Chateau Petit Roubie’; look for the most recent vintage, aging is not a great friend for these wines. While fresh they can be your palate’s wing man, smoothing the way to a good time, but with age they tend to become your great uncle’s movie selection, pleasant, but the night won’t be as exciting as it could be.
What to expect from a Picpoul wine? Typically they are a yellowish, dry, light bodied wine with a citrus nose followed by a palate ranging from grapefruit, to green apple and stone fruits, finishing with a wonderful cleansing acidity that gets the saliva glands flowing. Like most wines different vintners will have different character, the bottles of Picpoul I have had in the past have all been a little different; some dominated by citrus flavors, some include a lot of green apple and some with clear stone fruit character, some with mineral on the back of the palate, others with a flavor of lime. Because these wines are usually found in a wine store and not the grocery aisle I suggest you ask the wine seller for their knowledge about the wine they carry or just wing, the unknown can be great fun.
Like many wines from France the recent foreign exchange rates have not been kind to the price point, but you should be able find a Picpoul from the $9 on up price point, not bad for a very drinkable wine that you can show off to friends and guest alike. Try it on its own or with a meal from the water, either way I encourage everyone to jump into the Pool.