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Through the Grapevine: Zesty, clean and crisp

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Wine Review: Saint-Peyre 2014 Picpoul

Grade: A

At long last, you can finally give the margarita a rest. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the classic cocktail over a plate of chile rellenos, a bowl of creamy queso or with salty, crispy corn chips, after a while margaritas just seem mundane. Often too strong and prepared with subpar ingredients — cheap tequila and the bottled lime juice that has been sitting on store shelves for years — they’ve become the standard, the practical, the unexciting.

But now, folks, the game has changed. That’s right — there’s no need to clap, but I believe I’ve done the impossible: I’ve found a wine for Mexican food.

You can imagine my reaction when I first tasted Saint-Peyre’s 2014 picpoul de Pinet, a dry white wine from the south of France, and immediately the zesty tang of lime bounced around on the palate. Instantly, I suffered a craving for enchiladas smothered in smoky chili sauce.

I’ve been bored lately. Between my successes with fruity chenin and sauvignon blancs and spicy tempranillos, and my disasters — among them last September’s grungy pinot grigio and a recent run in with a putrid pinot noir — I’ve decided to be more daring, more adventurous. And I’m glad I did.

Saint-Peyre’s picpoul emanates aromas of floral citrus, lemon and lavender, which provide a sweet and enticing baseline for consumption. A second whiff and sturdy pine provides body while green apple lends complexity. A sip yields notes of bright lime, as I’ve said, but also a smokiness that pours over the taste buds. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say this wine didn’t possess a barbecue-like quality: sweet, smoky and zesty. It hit all the right notes.

This wine had a quintessential Mediterranean character. From the first sip to the bottom of the glass, one conjures images of sunny beaches with cascading waves, colored deep blue, crashing upon rock-lined coasts. Alternatively, one can imagine walking through a lemon grove, picking the fruits whose juice will be squeezed over freshly-caught fish. This picpoul transports the drinker straight to the sprawling landscapes of southern France, where citadels with crimson roofs line hilltops, towering over quaint Provincial towns. It’s as sensory an experience as one can have.

With bold flavor and a mild complexion, this wine can stand on its own. The warm Mediterranean climate of the Languedoc growing region in southern France produces high-alcohol wines rich with fruity flavor. This very dry wine demands food, but also remains refreshing despite its parching quality. Its mouthfeel is light and not heavy, and would of course pair perfectly with seafood — scallops seared and wrapped with bacon, grilled shrimp with garlic and butter, broiled salmon, you name it — in addition to the spicy foods I’ve mentioned before. The south of France is well-known for its seafood, so try pairing this wine with its intended cuisine, and then expand your pairings globally.

Perhaps this wine’s best quality is its clarity. It’s not muddled down with spicy notes, and every flavor is easily discernible and well-balanced. Dare I say, it’s distinguished, a standout on wine shelves and a knockout of a deal. You receive a bottle of wine that can transcend cultures and cuisines with unique and unexpected flavors, a perfect summer sipper with just the right amount of zing.

The next time you purchase your favorite Mexican dish — or Spanish or even Indian, for that matter — or set up a chair on your porch for a delightful summer happy hour, avoid the margarita. You will find Saint-Peyre’s 2014 picpoul a unique and easy-to-drink accompaniment to your meal, and something a little more refined, as well. Give it a try; you won’t regret it. And, at only $9.99, you really have no excuse not to.


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