* The following article was first published on-line in Saturday’s edition of the Knoxville News Sentinel.
With the advent of spring, the farmers markets and produce aisles are rapidly starting to fill up with the bright, luscious fruit of the season. And as our eyes are tempted and lured-in by the vibrancy and freshness of these colorful fruits, it becomes a suitable time to pair them with some nice and inexpensive white wines. Just as strawberries and champagne make for great pairings, so too do these French wines and fresh fruits.
The grape variety Picpoul has been picking up steam in our market over the past few years. Produced in the southern most part of France’s Rhone Valley, it will often come from a growing appellation known as Picpoul de Pinet. Here you will find some of the best examples of the variety.
The Domaine Delsol 2012 Picpoul de Pinet is a stunning representation of the wine. Not only do the grapes come from a single vineyard but the wine itself is estate bottled, giving the Delsol meticulous care from start to finish. Its golden pear color isn’t typical when compared alongside many of the other Picpouls. The Delsol’s balanced acidity is its secret weapon, as citrusy notes like grapefruit persist from start to finish.
Picpoul is universally paired with shellfish, but I’ve found that the Domaine Delsol offers a bit more balance and roundedness without losing its edge. So look to enjoy it with some sliced kiwi fruit or even something sweeter like honeydew when it starts to roll in later this summer. Imported by the Marchetti Wine Company, the Domaine Delsol Picpoul de Pinet sells for around $10.
Other Rhone varietals to seek out include Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier. The first two can shoot up in price in a hurry so it’s often better to track down a blend to save money or as an introduction to the wine. The estate of the Saint Cosme vineyards is a great place to start; it dates back over half a millennium and today offers a host of traditional regional wines including a blend of the aforementioned grapes.
Saint Cosme’s Cote-du-Rhone Blanc has more of fleshy texture than a Picpoul and shows off delicious pear and apple flavors. Something tropical, like pineapple, makes for a nice partner to the Saint Cosme and it tends to be more forgiving with various red berries than most still white wines. The Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc retails for around $20 and is imported by the Virginia based County Vintner company.
Although I have an obvious partiality towards French white wines and fresh fruit, that predilection is not limited to the Rhone Valley. Case in point is the very lovely, Chateau Pilet 2012 Bordeaux Blanc. Comprised of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon, the Pilet shows off an exotic bouquet and some lip-smacking acidity. The citrus side of the Chateau Pilet Bordeaux Blanc requires a similar natured fruit like tangerines or navel oranges, so here’s to hoping this year’s Florida crop stays warm. Chateau Pilet is imported by HB Wine Merchants and goes for $13.