2019 Picpoul Santa Barbara County
Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you about my newest viticultural love affair, Picpoul.
Like Clairette Blanche, Picpoul (also known as Picpoul Blanc) is one of those white Rhone varieties that just never seemed to arrive in California winemaking till now. While I was able to work with Clairette in 2017 and 2018, 2019 was the first year for me to crush some Picpoul, and I think with this inaugural bottling you will see and taste why I am so high on this variety, and why I think its potential run in new world winegrowing may very well be upon us.
Picpoul's varietal character can be similar to that of Chardonnay, and this wine serves as a case in point. It has a beautiful expression of minerality laced into a seemingly familiar fragrant nose of apple and pear. Be they exaggerated or subtle, describing the differences in Picpoul and Chardonnay in Santa Barbara County is something that I will be formulating in the years to come. From the French versions of PicpouI that I have tasted over the years, there is usually a tantalizing presence of citrus, especially a sprightly suggestion of lime, or, at times, even guava. For now, if you were to ask me, “Bryan, how is your Picpoul?”, I might say, “Well, it’s one of the most interesting Chardonnays I have ever made.”
Along with its fruit, it’s the acid and texture that are really interesting. Like my bigger Chardonnays, Top Cream, Dream Field, etc., this wine was barrel fermented, put through malolactic fermentation, and then held on its lees for an extended ripening period. The result is a beautiful fusion of the fruit-butter-acid complex. In other words, like a great Chardonnay, this Picpoul has beautiful structure and texture. It’s rich, but with its firm acidity it still has a vibrant nerve. In a nutshell, it's looking more and more like Picpoul is not a wimpy grape, rather it’s quite robust as white varieties go.
Finally, as an enological teaser, I also will share with you a unique aspect of this wine’s recipe and its call for some super hip barrels that my Burgundian buddy and cooper, Gerome Fouailly, recommends for white Rhone varieties. For these very intriguing barrels Gerome utilizes both French Oak and Acacia, alternating every other stave so as to give them a striped effect. He calls them his “Harlequin" barrels. When I asked Gerome if there was any reason to this madness beyond simply wanting to make a barrel with stripes, he said, “Of course there is; it’s because the Acacia brings up the honeysuckle qualities that I find in many white varieties, especially the ones in the Rhone.” Ookaay I thought, and so in 2018 I tried some Harleys (my nickname) on my Clairette, and, sure enough, they seemed to bring up a sexy honeysuckle quality in this delicate variety. This 2019 Picpoul was fermented in about 1/3 new barrels, half of which were Harleys and half were traditional oak with Gerome’s delicate level of toast. So far I am loving the results.
For now, I hope you enjoy this beautiful premier bottling of Picpoul, and stay tuned for what I am sure will be delicious future developments.