Picardan – White Rhône Grape for Texas
Picardan – White Rhône Grape for Texas (Aug-2021)
Because of the rolling hills and rocky landscape, sandy, gravelly soil types, and hot, dry, windy climate conditions in the southern Rhône Valley of France, grape varieties that thrive there also tend to do quite well in many regions of the Lone Star State. Classic Rhône white varieties like Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier, plus red varieties like Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre are well-known in Texas for producing quality wines. A much less-known white grape variety, Picardan, is now showing up in Texas wine blends. Float Blanc 2020 Texas High Plains is a refreshing white wine blend that contains Picardan, accompanied by Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. It was produced by McPherson Cellars for Texas Wine Collective. This Carl’s Corner post explores Picardan – a bit of history, some characteristics, and potential here in Texas.
The Picardan variety was largely planted in the southern French regions of Languedoc and Chateauneuf-du-Pape which experience a warm, arid Mediterranean climate. In the distant past, Picardan was usually coupled with other white varieties, like Piquepoul Blanc and Clairette Blanche, to produce easy-drinking, often sweeter white wines from Languedoc. The popularity of Picardan waned over several hundred years and today there is very little vineyard acreage still in existence. Because Picardan is a lightly colored and mildly flavored grape variety, it is most often used in blends rather than produced as a varietal white wine.
Picardan, as a variety, has probably been saved by efforts of Chateau de Beaucastel, a famous producer in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region of the southern Rhône Valley. Beaucastel established a California outpost in Paso Robles named Tablas Creek, and planted a vineyard there containing most of the 18 varieties of grapes allowed by the French government to be included in Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines, including 1,000 Picardan vines.
From this rebirth in the U.S., Picardan vines have flourished at Tablas Creek, and cuttings of these vines have been procured by other wineries, mostly on the West Coast, but also in Texas. Today there is a reasonable planting of Picardan vines in the Texas High Plains, principally in vineyards near Levelland, TX, west of Lubbock in Hockley County. Kim McPherson purchased some of these Picardan grapes and used them in producing Float Blanc White Wine blend 2020.
Float Blanc is comprised of Roussanne (43%), Grenache Blanc (30%), and Picardan (27%). It is a light-bodied, easy-drinking, refreshing dry white wine that offers floral and fresh peach aromas, golden apple and white peach flavors, all balanced by ample acidity that makes the wine drink well either alone or with light summer picnic fare and charcuterie boards that are quite popular today in Texas tasting rooms. Since Picardan can grow well in the drier, higher elevation regions of Texas, one can reasonably expect more of the variety will be planted and used by Texas vintners.
So, pick up a bottle of Float Blanc from Texas Wine Collective, chill, open, and drink the wine with some light cheeses, and enjoy reading about its role, however small, in the history of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and now with some hope to play a role in the future of the Texas Wine Industry.
Just for the fun of it, below is a list of all those grape varieties “allowed” in Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines, and some references with information about the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation of the southern Rhône Valley and its very interesting history. Most readers will recognize many of these grape varieties that are currently being used by Texas wineries to produce delicious white, rosé, and red wines.
The 13 primary grape varieties, with their variations (total 18) “allowed” in Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines.
Grenache Rouge, Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc
Cinsault (or Cinsaut)
Piquepoul Noir, Piquepoul Gris, Piquepoul Blanc
Clariette Blanche, Clariette Rose
References that tell some of the fascinating story of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.