The new Muscadet?

This month try a Picpoul de Penet, a zingy alternative to Muscadet.

Picpoul de Penet dry white wine from France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region is beginning to get noticed and, as it rises into favour, we are seeing a modest increase in brands available on our supermarket shelves.

Some commentators call it the ‘new Muscadet’. Picpoul translates literally, I am told, as ‘lip-stinger’. The wine does have a distinct zingy acidity on the tongue, which prompts the comparison.

Relatively new to our UK shelves, it was first recognised as a regional type of wine in 1937 and it was not until 2013 that Picpoul was granted its own AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée). The AOP requires the wine to be made from the white Piquepoul grape, a distinctively small and oval shaped indigenous grape which was possibly planted by the Romans.

GROWN AROUND PINET

The growing region is centred around the town of Pinet and southwards to the shores of the Etang de Thau and thence to Sète on the Mediterranean shore, an area renowned for oysters. The dry and sunny sea breeze tempers the day temperatures and the Thau reduces the heat drop of the night.

The result is a refreshing dry white wine, clear with a tinge of apple green and a beautiful citrusy nose and gently zesty finish. Best drunk around two- to three-years old and, as with Muscadet, highly recommended with fish and crustaceans.

This is not cheap plonk. With prices typically between £7 and £10 a bottle, it is in the mid-range, a contender for a drink-less-but-better personal wine strategy.

WHERE TO BUY

Waitrose recommends Picpoul de Penet les Canots 2016, 12.5 per cent abv, £8.49 for a 75cl bottle, which works for me.

Majestic Wine Warehouse lists three options: Villemarin Picpoul de Penet 2016, 12.5 per cent, £7.99, Ormarine Picpoul, 13 per cent, £8.99 and Domaine Felines Jourdan de Penet 2015, 12.5 per cent, £9.99.

Wine specialists Laithwaites are very enthusiastic for Picpoul and have an exclusive supply from Floris Lemstra 2017 for £9.99 on multi-buy promotion.

To set up your own compare and contrast exercise with Muscadet, go for Fief Guérin Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu sur Lie 2016, 12 per cent, also £8.49 at Waitrose for a 75cl bottle. My tasting panel found it hard to choose, the Picpoul liked for the sweet and sour fruit flavours, and the Muscadet for being slightly more full bodied, but they chose Picpoul for the fish supper.

Muscadet is made in the western France Loire region around Nantes, where the vineyards are wafted by Atlantic breezes coming ashore between Brest and La Rochelle and got its AOP in 1994. It is made only from the Melon de Bourgoyne grape, with no blending, and the maximum abv is 12 per cent.

SUR LIE

The ‘sur lie’ is an important qualification gained by being aged on its own lies (spent yeast from the fermentation process) without filtration from harvest and fermentation in October until at least March of the following year. This adds body and flavour to the wine which is bottled with a slight natural spritz to help retain freshness.

There are some brands that are not ‘sur lie’. Waitrose has Muscadet la Marinière for £6.49 the bottle from vineyards nearer the sea. But I think the £2 premium for the ‘sur lie’ is worth it. One way or the other Picpoul is worth a try.