Picpoul Blanc has been a revelation for me in 2018. I’ll be honest, I never heard of this variety before working at Adelaida Vineyards & Winery. Picpoul Blanc is one of the many Rhône varieties that Paso is becoming more well known for each year and is also one of the limited production white wines Adelaida does so well. There are a handful of other wineries in the Paso Robles area that bottle a Picpoul Blanc, but Adelaida’s is definitely the stand out for me.
Let’s back up a bit for those of you who are not familiar with Picpoul Blanc. Also known as Piquepoul Blanc, this white variety is thought to have originated in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southwestern France. Within the Languedoc, there is the Picpoul de Pinet AOC which produces wines of 100% Picpoul Blanc. Records show that Picpoul Blanc was being exported from the area as far back as the 17th century in a blended sweet wine with Clairette called Picardan. Picpoul Blanc is also grown in the Southern Rhône valley and is one of the 13 varieties which can be used in the famous blends of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Picpoul Blanc lends itself well to blends as this variety is known for racing acidity. And as we all know, acidity is a very important component of a well-balanced wine.
When grown in warmer climates, like the New World site of Paso Robles, Picpoul Blanc can maintain it’s characteristic bright acidity while developing luscious tropical fruit flavors. Adelaida’s 2016 Picpoul Blanc is my favorite Picpoul Blanc to date. Characterized with bright flavors of fresh pineapple and Meyer lemons with aromas of freshly grated lemon zest and even an ocean breeze salinity, this is one of the more unique wines I’ve ever tasted. The wine is tart and crisp with lovely acidity. The 2016 Picpoul Blanc was barrel-fermented in mostly neutral oak, went through a partial malolactic fermentation and spent 8 months aging on the lees. As a result of these winemaking techniques, there is a well-rounded component to the wine which prevents the acidity from being overbearing. Picpoul’s bright acidity and fresh flavors mean this is a wine meant to be enjoyed with food. But you might be asking yourself, what food pairs best with Picpoul Blanc?
A good rule of thumb when dealing with wines of higher acidity is to aim to match the levels of acidity in the food to the acidity in the wine. Or at least consider working some acid component into the dish. Acidity in food will decrease the perception of acidity in the wine while simultaneously increasing the wine’s perceived fruitiness, body, and even sweetness, too. You’ll want to avoid foods that are especially sweet or high in umami flavors when pairing with a high acid wine because these flavor characteristics will actually increase the perception of acid, bitterness, and alcohol on the palate. Potentially the makings of a disastrous pairing.
Salt is your friend when it comes to wines with high acidity, as salt helps to enhance the body of the wine and lessen the perception of acidity and bitterness. A good trick to keep in your back pocket when you’re in a pinch…just add salt! Now, if you are like me and you love spicy foods, then don’t hesitate to grab a bottle of Picpoul Blanc or Pinot Gris next time you’re eating something with a little heat. Acidity in the wine will actually fan the flames and increase the perception of spice on your palate. That being said, if you are not a fan of spicy foods, then avoid high acid wines when eating something even remotely spicy.
I typically like to enjoy Picpoul Blanc when I have Thai takeout. I always order a high level of spice on any of my Thai dishes and I love how Picpoul enhances that heat even more. The citrus fruit notes of the wine are also brought to the foreground by the salty and subtle umami flavors of Thai food. Picpoul Blanc is also phenomenal alongside a bowl of salted, buttery popcorn, the perfect pairing for your Netflix and chill night. The saltiness of the popcorn really allows the notes of Pineapple, lemon, and ripe melon to shine from the wine while the richness of the butter is a good complement to the crisp acidity.
The Pairing: Picpoul Blanc & Chicken Piccata
One of my coworkers at Adelaida mentioned she had the Picpoul Blanc with chicken piccata one night at a restaurant and the two paired magically together. I was intrigued and, of course, had to taste this magic for myself! Besides, I had a bottle of Picpoul Blanc at home just waiting to be enjoyed.
Honestly, this was one of the best food and wine pairings I have ever tasted. First, the acid component in the chicken piccata from the fresh lemon juice is the perfect match for the acidity and citrus notes of the Picpoul Blanc. The saltiness of the capers really allows the fruit notes of pineapple, grapefruit, and preserved lemons to sing on the palate. Plus, the round richness of the butter and olive oil in the chicken piccata sauce acts as a good counterpoint to the crisp acidity of the wine. I also decided to make spaghetti with zucchini and squash noodles, fresh basil, and parsley to serve with the chicken piccata. The fresh herbs really danced on the palate backed by the citrus notes of the Picpoul Blanc. You know it’s a good pairing when you can’t get enough of both the food and the wine. And I drank more of that bottle than I’m willing to admit with this scrumptious dish!
I had never cooked chicken piccata before, but now I am a huge fan! Anything with salty capers and tangy lemons is right up my alley. And when the dish goes perfectly with one of my fave whites, that’s definitely a dish I can get behind. Even better, this dish is SUPER easy and exponentially delicious. Here is the recipe for you to try at home! I included the recipe for the herbed zoodle spaghetti, too. If you can get your hands on a bottle of Picpoul Blanc, I promise you won’t be disappointed with the pairing. Other wines that would also make this dish sing include a Pinot Grigio from Trentino Alto-Adige, a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile or Marlborough, or a dry Reisling from Mosel in Germany.
Try out the pairing and let me know what you think! Oh, and in case you were wondering, chicken piccata is not an authentic Italian dish. My Italian boyfriend actually laughed at the inquiry. 😉
Chicken Piccata is dish easy enough to whip up on a school night and decadent enough for date night, too. Tangy lemons, salty capers, and fresh herbs bring tons of flavor to this simple meal.
- 2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp chopped basil
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 3 tbsp brined capers
- 1 zucchini
- 1 yellow squash
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 6 tbsp butter
- 7 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2-4 servings dried spaghetti
- flour for dredging
- salt and pepper
- red pepper flakes
Bring a quart sized pot of water to a boil as you prepare the vegetables and chicken.
Chop parsley and basil. Using a spiralizer, turn the zucchini and yellow squash into "zoodles." If you don't have a spiralizer, you can alternatively julienne the zucchini and yellow squash. Mince the cloves of garlic.
Cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise. Cover each piece of chicken with plastic wrap and use a kitchen mallet or similar utensil to pound the chicken to tenderize.
Once water is boiling, salt the water heavily and add spaghetti. Cook 9-11 minutes or to package directions.
Season each piece of chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Gently shake off excess flour.
Over medium heat, add 2 tbsp of butter and 3 tbsp of olive oil to a medium sized skillet. Once butter is melted and sizzling, add 2 pieces of chicken. Cook on one side for 3 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for 3 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan. Add 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil. Once melted and sizzling, add the 2 remaining pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Over medium to low heat, add 1/2 cup white wine (or more if needed) to deglaze the pan. Scrape any brown bits off the edges of the pan and into the sauce. Add 1 tbsp butter and lemon juice. Add capers. Bring to a simmer and add chicken back into the pan with the sauce. Allow to simmer together for 3-5 minutes. Toss 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley into the sauce before serving.
While sauce is simmering, in a separate pan heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Sauté the minced garlic for 1 minute, then add the zucchini and yellow squash noodles. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until zoodles are tender.
Drain pasta when ready. Add the cooked spaghetti noodles to the pan with the zoodles and garlic. Add 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil and 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley. Toss together adding more olive oil if needed. Remove from heat.
For serving, you can either serve the chicken piccata in a separate dish and the herbed spaghetti and zoodles in a bowl. I like to serve the chicken piccate over the herbed spaghetti and zoodles and drizzle everything in the sauce from the chicken piccata. Whatever you prefer, be sure to drizzle the sauce from the chicken piccata over the chicken breasts.
Enjoy a bottle of Picpoul Blanc with this chicken piccata to really make the dish sing!