Lip Stinger

29 June 2011

I helped staff a booth at a local street festival this past weekend, and though I appreciate the work of the organization, I knew their cocktail selection would likely be suspect. So as not to be stuck with the cheap vodka and imitation lemonade of years past, I perused my wine collection for something inexpensive, bright and cheery (and not too alcoholic — it was barely noon).

I found just what I was looking for in a bottle of 2009 La Chapelle de la Bastide Picpoul de Pinet. After chilling it for 45 minutes in the freezer, I tossed it in my backpack and hopped on my bike.

The cocktail selection in the booth proved as dire as my predictions: Vodka and Sierra Mist. Hardly the worst mixture one could concoct, but it exuded a whiff of frathouse improvisation. I opened my Picpoul.

Picpoul de Pinet is quite an unusual cru in France, in that it’s named after a variety, Picpoul, as well as a place, Pinet (most French appellations refer only to geography). It’s no surprise this cru, just west of the canal-laced town of Sète, is set in the heart of the rather wild and wooly wine appellation of Coteaux du Languedoc, “France’s most anarchic wine region,” according to The Oxford Companion to Wine. Perhaps only here could a variety work its name into the French AOC system.

Picpoul (also written as “Piquepoul,” which means “lip stinger,” according to The Oxford Companion to Wine) dates back to at least the 17th Century, according to the Picpoul de Pinet website, when it was already recognized as a quality variety. It apparently waned in popularity due to its low yields and suceptibility to fungus, notes Wikipedia (without citing any sources), but it’s relatively easy to obtain now.

But enough of that — this is supposed to be a fun, festival wine. I cracked it open, poured a generous helping into a clear plastic cup and held it up to the sun. A beautiful yellow-green, this wine looked like summer. The back label claimed “wild roses” on the nose, but I detected only green apples. The wine tasted satisfyingly bright, with apples and juicy lemons, before closing with a pleasantly chalky finish. Sunny and fun, this wine surely reflected its terroir near the coast of southwestern France.

It certainly beat Vodka + Sierra Mist.


2009 La Chapelle de la Bastide Picpoul de Pinet: Fun, bright and juicy, with a hint of minerality. A great value summer white.

Grade: B

Find It: This bottle was purchased on sale at Whole Foods Market Evanston South for $5.50, but $9.00 is a more representative price.