Posted by: tomciocco | November 18, 2012


The pendulum seems to be swinging back, and hopefully it will never swing as far to “that” side ever again, because for too long, in nearly every D.O. (Denominacio` d’Origen) in Catalunya, French/International varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier have significantly supplanted native  like Ull de Llebre, Sumoll, Macabeu, and tonight’s guest variety, Picapoll.

Also known as Picpoul (the Provencal language name; Picapoll is old Catalan, but the meaning – “lip-stinger” – due to its abundant acidity, is the same) in France’s Languedoc where it represents the lone grape in the Picpoul de Pinet A.O.C. this grape, however it’s spelled on whichever side of the fuzzy national and linguistic borderlines, is a grape that for many generations was nearly exclusively relegated to the production of white Vermouth. And in fact even today, Picapoll is still the choice variety for the fortified wine, but in regions like Pla de Bages in the rippling hills northwest of Barcelona,  Picapoll was once in the past, and now is once again, an important white wine grape variety.

Picapoll’s nature is much of the cause for the loss of its space in vineyards over the centuries. Picapoll is particularly susceptible to fungal diseases, and typically yields only moderate quantities of fruit per vine, which made it quite vulnerable to the push into Catalunya’s vineyards by more highly esteemed and better performing grape varieties from abroad. Another little twist in Picapoll’s genetic string is that it happens to perform particularly well in sandy soils which quickly encouraged the large vermouth producers and shippers, most of which were situated on or near the sea, to plant vineyards immediately surrounding their local ports, creating a pull of the variety into these more commercial growing sites, which eventually cheapened the variety’s reputation further.

So it should shock no one that back in Pla de Bages, one of Picapoll’s native growing regions, which is climatically quite hot and dry during the day, and cool and breezy at night, with loose, organically poor soils, reduces its issues with mold to practically nil. And with the contemporary push to the production of quality fruit over quantity, any major problems with the variety’s propensity for only moderate yields also all but negated. It’s funny how growing a grape in the right spot, with the right level of care will produce good wine. Crazy…

Though not a strictly Catalan dinner, I threw together a menu that is quite faithful to the Catalan palate and sensibility in the kitchen: Toasts spread with goat cheese creamed with oregano and garlic strewn with pomegranate seeds, and then a main course of salt cod and canned tuna fricadelles with marjoram, thyme, orange zest, garlic, pimenton, etc. with buttered, minted peas on the side.












Abadal Pla de Bages Picapoll 2011

Very bright pale yellow gold color. Gregarious nose of cassia, fresh herbs, mixed citrus, peach, and pear nectars, egg custard, aromatic white flowers, buttered popcorn, and pine sap. The wine is moderately viscous-feeling on the palate, with a big, piercing acidity and intense flavors of grass, pale honey, pine nut paste, minerals, mango, and lemon curd hung in a moderately strong structure. Moderately long and fresh mineral, quinine, and almond finish. 


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