Sunday, 27 August 2017

More Picpoul de Pinet

 I seem to be enjoying a lot of Picpoul this summer.   It is such an easy refreshing drink – and these days there is barely a restaurant in London that does not have Picpoul de Pinet on its list.   So the other reliable and inexpensive source of Picpoul de Pinet is the other main cooperative of the appellation, namely the coop in Pomerols, which has diversified its offering of Picpoul in recent years.  Originally there was just the one cuvée, but they have worked on a selection of better plots and encouraged their members to produce better grapes.

2016 Picpoul de Pinet, Beauvignac – 5.50€
This is their basic entry level wine, with a simple vinification, a cool 10 to 15-day fermentation, followed by some lees contact, to make a firm stony meral wine, with fresh fruit and good acidity.  Hugues de Beauvignac was not, as you might expect, a local lord, but a fictional character, said to be a Cathar knight! 

2015 Cuvée Anniversaire – 6.10€
This comes from a selection of slightly older vines, 25 years or more, with more work on the lees and a longer élevage.  Consequently, there is more weight on the palate, more depth and good firm stony fruit. 

2015 Cap Cette – 6.80€
This is my favourite of their Picpoul, with a richer, more exuberant nose, more leesy fruit, more weight and a firm slightly bitter finish, which is the hallmark of good Picpoul, with some salty notes.   Quite simply it makes a lovely glass of Picpoul.

Picpoul fût de chêne – 11.80€
This cuvée is aged in wood for six months in wood, with a percentage of the wine also fermented in wood.  The nose is quite firm and the palate quite solid and earthy with nutty overtones and some acidity on the finish.  It is not for me; the oak overwhelms the essential characteristics of good Picpoul.  

2016 Picpoul Brut Méthode Traditionnelle – 9.00€
Light colour, with quite a firm salty Picpoul nose, and the palate was quite earthy, with a touch of honey.  Again not for me, but an interesting diversification to show what can be done with Picpoul.  The still wine is sent to a producer in the Rhône valley to be turned into bubbles.

2016 le Moelleux, Côtes de Thau – 4.80€
The Pomerols coop is also an important producer of the local IGP, Côtes de Thau.  Usually their sweet wine is a pure Picpoul but the 2016 vintage includes a bit of Colombard to give some acidity.  The fermentation is stopped by chilling and the wine filtered, leaving 35 – 40 gms/l of residual sugar.  The colour is pale and the nose and palate lightly honeyed with some fresh acidity.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Two restaurant wine lists in the Languedoc.

Le Presbytère

An evening at the Presbytère in Vailhan is always a treat.  In the summer you eat on the terrace with a view of the surrounding hills and the menu is elegant and seasonal, with delicious fish that calls for white wine.   Their list is small and focuses on the Languedoc, but with deviations outside the region.  However, the list changes frequently, with offerings of new bottles to try.  On our last visit a couple of weeks ago we drank a delicious Picpoul de Pinet, Brechallune, from Domaine la Croix de Gratiot, an estate that is making great strides in improving its quality.   This has spent six months on the lees with regular bâtonnage and was firm and salty with weight as well as acidity and made a great aperitif, as well as accompanying our first course.  

And then we went onto 2015 Manon, from Clos Marie in the Pic St. Loup, a lovely blend of Roussanne, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeo, with layers of flavour in a textured palate.  Sadly, Clos Marie was particularly hit by the severe hail storm of last August and consequently there is no Manon in 2016.  Instead they have made a Cuvée Les Trois Saisons, for one season is missing, which includes about 15% of their own grapes, but they have also bought in the same varieties as for Manon, from various wine growers mainly from the Terrasses du Larzac, who had grapes to spare and were unaffected by the frost.  The wine is made in the same way as Manon, vinified in concrete and spent nine months in a tronconique vat with some bâtonnage and a malo lactic fermentation.  It is AOP Languedoc, and has lovely acidity and freshness, with textured nuances and a nicely rounded finish. 

La Terrasse de Mimosas

This restaurant and wine shop is well placed in the central square of the village of Montpeyroux, giving you a view of the church tower and the market square, with tables outside.  And the wine list is impressive, concentrating on the Languedoc, and on the Terrasses du Larzac in particular, with the wine estates listed by village.   Their policy is to charge the shop price plus 10€ which makes for some very attractive pricing and they have several vintages of some wines, so offer plenty of temptation amongst older vintages. We were there for a pre-concert meal, so did not have the time to linger, but none the less managed to enjoy a delicious bottle, or two, of Alain Chabanon’s Petit Trélans, a pure Vermentino.  We drank 2015, but we could have tried an older vintage of Trélans, which is a blend of Chenin Blanc and Vermentino.   And then we went onto Cal Demoura’s L’Infidèle 2014.  Vincent Goumard has renamed this cuvée Terres de Jonquières, - L’Infidèle came from the previous owner - to focus on the roots of his estate and emphasise the sense of place.   The wine itself has not changed.  It includes a little from each plot of the estate and all five red grape varieties of the Languedoc, grown on two different soils, stony limestone and limestone with clay.  This for Vincent is the wine that is really representative of the domaine, with some rounded spicy fruit, supple tannins and a subtle palate, in short a delicious bottle of wine.  All was right with the world, as the evening continued with some wonderful music.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

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.