Bargain French white
Let's stay with the theme of Wednesday's article to talk about yet another good-value favorite that I enjoy rediscovering when each new vintage arrives. This one's white, and it's French: The always appealing, still affordable Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet from the Coteaux du Languedoc, now widely available in its 2003 edition.
Another of the offbeat grapes that I love to explore, Picpoul is native to Southern France, from the Languedoc to the Rhone Valley, where it's one of the 13 varieties permitted in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Its name, I'm told, translates as "the lip-stinger" of Pinet, a jocular compliment to the tart, high-acid (and thus decidedly food-friendly) wines that it produces.
Always crisp and citric, it's a classic "summer sipper" that many of my friends use as a seasonal "house wine." As far as I'm concerned, its affinity for seafood - and its price - make it a winner all year 'round. The warmth of the 2003 vintage across Europe shows in this vintage as a peachy, aromatic ripeness, built on a signature lemony citric snap that I've found consistent over many years of enjoying this wine. (European readers should note that "Hugues Beaulieu" is the U.S. label for this wine, sold in Europe as Hugues de Beauvignac.)
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Hugues Beaulieu 2003 Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet ($8.99)
This clear, light-gold wine breathes appetizing aromas of peaches, juicy and fresh, with a back note of lemon-lime. Crisp and tart, white-fruit flavors and lemon-squirt acidity are fresh and cleansing in a very long finish. Not overly complex but bright and appealing, it's a first-rate seafood wine. Kysela Pere & Fils Ltd., Winchester, Va. (Feb. 9, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: Excellent with a broad range of seafood; couldn't ask for a better match with a simple Southern-cuisine dinner of shrimp and grits.
VALUE: It has gone up with the Euro from $6.99 for the 1995 to $7.99 for the 2001. It's still a very good value at $8.99 for the current release.
WHEN TO DRINK: It won't fade overnight, but freshness is a virtue. I suggest drinking the 2003 this summer, then moving on when the next vintage comes in.
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Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2005