Don’t you hate it when a novel’s chief protagonist has superhuman capacities when it comes to alcohol? During From Russia With Love, for example, James Bond downs a staggering 50 units of alcohol in a single day. And don’t get me on about Morse or Wallander.
Cue very bad Sean Connery impersonation…
Bond said, ‘And I would like a medium Vodka dry martini — with a slice of lemon peel. Shaken and not stirred, please. I would prefer Russian or Polish vodka.’
Doctor No gave his thin smile an extra crease. ‘I see you are also a man who knows what he wants.’
– ‘Dr No’, Ian Fleming, 1958
My Moss Reid character does like his pints and wine, but he’s not terribly boozy. He’s no wine expert (neither am I), yet he knows what he likes. And when it comes to white wine, his tipple of choice – and that of his chef mate Arnaud – is Picpoul de Pinet.
Picpoul is neither posh nor glamorous. As white wines go it’s not that complex, sophisticated or expensive. It’s down-to-earth and rather good, and gets straight to the point. So Picpoul appears in every book in the “Moss Reid” series, and gets an extended outing in Ghost Flight, as Moss and Arnaud traipse down to the Languedoc region where this unusual grape is grown, in the south of France by the Med.
Picpoul used to be one of the Languedoc’s best-kept secrets. At least it was until Rick Stein “discovered” it during his French Odyssey series in 2005.
Pour a glass of it. It’s crystal clear, with green highlights – or quite golden if it comes from some older vines.
Smell the nose: soft, delicate, with hints of acacia, hawthorn blossom and quite strong citrus aromas – grapefruit, fresh lemon zest, a touch of pineapple on the finish.
The taste is bright, refreshing, pleasantly acidic, tart. No wonder “picpoul” means “lip stinger” in Occitan.
And Rick Stein is absolutely right. It’s perfect with seafood – fish, shellfish, oysters on a hot summer’s day. It neutralises the salt and iodine in crustaceans, and would go well with a rich cheese, charcuterie or even chocolate.
The village of Pinet has a population of 950. Four local producers of note (I keep reminding myself that this is “research”!) are:
The Jourdans aim for a fruitier style of Picpoul than some other growers. They only made their first Picpoul as recently as 1992, but the gold medals started flooding in just a year later.
2. SCEA Gaujal
The Gaujals have been making wine in Pinet since 1744. I’ve not seen it in Ireland yet.
I came across this once a good while back in Saba on Clarendon Street.
A Picpoul supergroup that over the years has merged together 450 members with 1,650 hectares. Picpoul makes up about 10% of their output.