Picpoul de Pinet is a wine for diving into on a summer’s day.
It might be a drought-resistant, late-ripening, high-acid grape with great aromatics but consumers don’t know (or care) about that. 

From a bend in the Mediterranean coastline with the languid liquid influences of both La Mer and the Bassine de Thau, Picpoul de Pinet sings the siren song of salty sea air and briny shellfish feasts (the lagoon is famous for the oyster beds at Bouzigues). The triumph of Picpoul is not simply the extremely drinkable wine but – much like Muscadet or the first Provencal rosé of June – to have bottled the very essence of what it feels and tastes like to be on holiday.

Summed up by Heather Dougherty at a Picpoul masterclass in London this week to celebrate 10 years of the Appellation, its appeal to white wine drinkers is the charming combination of crisp, clean freshness, zingy, zesty flavours, a salty tang on the finish, an instantly recognisable bottle with a reasonable price tag, and a French word that is easy for non-French speakers to say. Job done! 

More recognisable in the UK than in France (70% of it is exported, and 70% of that ends up in British wine glasses), Picpoul is the only single-varietal Appellation d’Origine Côntrolée (AOC) for white wine in the Languedoc. The relatively young  AOC was born out of a refusal by the Languedoc-Rousillon AOC to allow 100% single varietal wine (the region is well known for blended wines). The rest is history. 

The grape is Piquepoul (distinct from the AOC), found in other regions of France but finessed, perfected and protected across six villages in a picturesque setting south of Montpellier where producers are bound by tight rules, low maximum yields and low maximum residual sugar levels to emphasise the grape’s freshness and salty mineral edge. The grapes are picked at night to retain acidity, and the wines are made protectively to avoid oxidation. 

Always advertised and enjoyed as a fresh, easy drinking young wine released quite soon after vinification, there is now a move to create a premium category of Picpoul with longer pre-fermentation maceration and a longer time on lees and in bottle before release. The ageing delivers more body and textural interest and more concentrated flavours in the glass. The bottle is also new, to differentiate it from the classic Neptune shape. These wines must be submitted to an AOC tasting panel before release with a ‘Project Patience’ label. 

Winemaker Claude Jourdan, who makes the Cuvée Féline (one of just 12 approved so far), says she wanted to prove that Picpoul could be complex and elegant. And it is. 

The message is that if you enjoy a classic Picpoul there is now an option to trade up to the next level of quality (and price). With Patience, only time will tell.

Four of the best and where to buy them

Villemarin Picpoul de Pinet, 2022

Crisp and zesty, fragrant and accessible. £9.99 at Majestic or £8.99 multi-buy  

Château Petit Roubié Picpoul de Pint 2022

Certified organic, great freshness and fruit with trademark salty finish. £11.99 at Vintage Roots 

Domaine Félines Jourdan Cuvée Féline 2021
I have always enjoyed Domaine Félines Picpoul Classique, this old vines Patience Project Cuvée is indeed a step up, showing lovely development while retaining freshness. £13.49 from All About Wine

Domaine la Grangette, La Part des Anges 2021

Certified organic, from a small domaine with low yields delivering complex citrus and stone fruit and a sherbetty zing. A Patience Project wine, not yet available in the UK, but find it in when you’re in France. 

© Linda Galloway 2023