Picpoul Blanc – The Lip Stinging Summer Sipper

In French it’s called “Picpoul” (also piquepoul). Translated into English it means “lip stinger”. Not familiar? Not surprising unless you spend a lot of time in Catalonia, where it’s served at every lunch table. If you like a fruity Sauvignon Blanc, a zippy Gruner, or steely Chablis, then you should seek out some Picpoul.

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The Region

Very few places grow Picpoul Blanc. In Rhone they use it for blending as one of the 13 permitted varieties in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Its real home is the Languedoc region in southern France. That’s where you’ll find Picpoul de Pinet, the only designated AOC for the grape. Here it’s produced as a single varietal in the communes of Pinet, Mèze, Florenzac, Castelnau-de-Guers, Montagnac and Pomérols.

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Picpoul thrives in vineyards perched on top of hills made of limestone which gives it a distinct minerality. This Mediterranean climate is warmer than other regions in France, and that helps the grapes develop riper, fruity flavors which balance nicely against the grape’s naturally high acidity.

The Wine

Sometimes when I head out for a long run I fill a water bottle with some chilled Picpoul. It’s sort of like a natural version of gatorade – subtly fruity and refreshing, with that briny salinity. I’m pretty sure it replenishes electrolytes, but don’t take my word for it.

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Enjoyment trumps complexity here, which isn’t to say Picpoul is one-dimensional. Like a woman who looks better without makeup, Picpoul shows off an honest purity that anyone can appreciate. It’s sometimes called the “Muscadet of Languedoc”, which is accurate to a point. Picpoul has a fuller body, more pronounced tropical flavors and a longer finish.

In the glass it shows a pale yellowish/green color. It’s crisp and racy with a core of lemon drop goodness flanked by a briny quality and a gunflint type minerality. Sometimes you’ll find secondary notes of grapefruit, apricot, and white peach. Even with the higher acidity, Picpoul should be enjoyed young, and isn’t meant for long term aging.

Food Pairing

This wine goes especially well with shellfish, clams, grilled fish and cured meats. But the ultimate pairing? Oysters for sure. With that briny quality mirrored on both ends it’s like these two were made to be enjoyed together.

And did we mention the price? This stuff is absurdly cheap, usually available for around $10.

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Picpoul Blanc, aka the lip stinger makes for a perfect summer sipper. Click To Tweet Looking for the ultimate oyster and wine pairing? Try a Picpoul Blanc. Click To Tweet
Feature photo credit: Ken Hawkins

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