Picpoul

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Grape Variety

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Picpoul (also known as Piquepoul) is an ancient white wine grape variety of the traditional and prolific Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France. The name pique-poul translates literally as "stings the lip", and is a reference to the grape's mouthwateringly high acidity.

Picpoul's most famous incarnation is in the white wines of the Picpoul de Pinet AOC that bears its name. Picpoul's ability to retain its acidity even in a hot, Mediterranean climate makes it the perfect choice for the region, making taut, full-bodied white wines with herbal and citrus aromas. Picpoul was traditionally blended with another obscure Languedoc variety, Clairette. Together, these two tangy grapes formed the basis of white Picardin, millions of litres of which were once shipped northwards to Paris each year along France's impressive network of canals.

Despite proving its usefulness consistently throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Picpoul fell rapidly out of favour in the 1880s, when downy mildew and phylloxera arrived from the Americas, wreaking havoc on the European wine industry. Picpoul's susceptibility to pests and disease left it somewhat lacking in the world of post-phylloxera viticulture.

Fortunately, Picpoul vines, unlike phylloxera bugs, can thrive happily in sandy soils, which became their last bastion against extinction. It is no surprise, then, that Picpoul is to be found only in coastal vineyards such as those which surround Pinet and the Etang de Thau, just west of Montpellier. There are a few vineyards in Portugal and Spain growing Picpoul, although it goes by the names Picapoll and Avello.

In addition to the better-known Picpoul Blanc form, there are also rare Picpoul Gris and Picpoul Noir variants. The former is now verging on extinction, while the latter remains a minor ingredient in the wines of the Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellations.
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