Picpoul de Pinet
Picpoul de Pinet wines are bone dry with good acidity and flavours of citrus and grapefruit, which makes them ideal with shellfish. The grape variety is called Picpoul, which means ‘lipstinger’ in the local Occitan tongue in reference to the crisp acidity of the grapes when harvested.
About an hour and 15 minutes away to the east of Beziers lies the saltwater lagoon of the Etang de Thau. Part of the necklace of elongated ‘pearls’ that make up the extended delta of the Rhone, the Etang de Thau is famous for its oysters and mussels. By no coincidence the perfect vinous partner for the seafood, Picpoul de Pinet, comes from the small village of Pinet nearby.
We recommend Domaine Morin Langarin for a tasting, and also for something a bit out of the ordinary, but very good, try Cave de Pomerols’ Hugues de Beauvignac Vintage Prestige cuvee which is fermented in barrel for a fuller body and delicious grapefruit and toast notes.
Picpoul, along with Clairette, is the grape behind Noilly Prat, the original dry vermouth created in 1815 by Joseph Noilly at Marseillan, a few miles from Pinet. The wines are aged, partially in the open air, to develop subtle sherry-like aromas, before being infused with herbs and spices. It’s the ideal complement to gin in a Martini, great on its own as a chilled aperitif, and also a great ingredient for cooking with fish and white meats. You could visit the winery, or buy it in any supermarket.
Places to visit include the lagoon itself, the quiet beaches on the small coast road between Marseillan and Sete, and the restaurants along the quay at Pinet (we recommend La Calenque for the best shellfish and setting).