Well, I’m officially out of Thailand tales so it’s back to regular old blogging. That means the return of winesday! While picking through my favorite section of Pike & Western Wine Shop – the “hot bargains” bin – I found a new new varietal to try for this week’s winesday: Picpoul! Pronounced peek-pool, I think picpoul may just be the cutest name for a wine grape that I’ve come across. It really deserves to always be followed by an exclamation point. Picpoul! Okay, enough of that. The specific picpoul that I bought was Chateau Font-Mars 2007 Picpoul de Pinet.

Picpoul hails from the Languedoc region of Southern France, and it is one of the most ancient varietals from that region. Although it comes in red and pink variants, picpoul blanc is the most common. Common is a relative term, however. Until now, picpoul has rarely been seen outside of France. As is usually the case with lesser-known grapes such as this, when you do find them, they are typically very reasonably priced. Of course, this may not last long; I just read an article proclaiming picpoul as the new “it” wine (last year’s Gruner Veltliner hipsters are probably all fawning over picpoul now.)

Picpoul wines are known for having a bright acidity with vibrant flavors of lemon and minerals. Unlike many similarly zesty wines, however, picpoul also has complex floral and stone fruit flavors and a surprisingly full fruitiness. They are perfect wines to serve with fish and oysters, although, because of their complex flavors, they can also be served with a much wider range of foods beyond fish. This versatility makes picpoul just as appropriate for any fine dining occasion as it is for that family picnic in the summer. Though they are good food wines, picpoul can also be served as an aperitif, either alone or with a touch of crème de cassis.

To serve with my picpoul, I made Steamed Fish with Black Bean Sauce. I was inspired by an essay in The Nasty Bits where Tony Bourdain describes a huge seafood feast at this tiny, dingy shack in Singapore. It all sounded amazing, but the one dish that stood out to me was the fish with black beans (probably because I had some fermented black beans sitting in my fridge that I had been meaning to use up.) I picked up a fillet of fresh black cod at Pure Food Fish which ended up being a really great choice for this recipe. The sauce that results from the steaming is flavorful but delicate, perfect for such a sweet, mild fish. I really need to start steaming fish more often. I usually sear or roast it, but steaming produces such moist results. And, it is so easy! I served equally easy steamed rice and stir-fried asparagus on the side. Fast and delicious!

The wine was excellent as well. It was much more full-bodied than you would expect from such a low alcohol wine (12.5%.) Flavors of citrus and peaches were predominant. It reminded me a bit of an unoaked chardonnay. I was worried that the salty black beans and herby asparagus would clash, but this wine proved to be a great food wine. I highly recommend the Chateau Font-Mars 2007 Picpoul de Pinet. If you can find this little gem of a wine, be sure to pick it up. It’s cheap, tastes great and, this may just be the geologist in me talking, but how cool is it that the vineyard is planted on a bed of fossilized dinosaur eggs?

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