If you’re looking for a wine with a difference, Piquette (pih-ket) is the new “old” kid on the block. This sometimes-effervescent low-alcohol drink is a natural next step for Oregon’s biodynamic winemakers, who always have their eye on sustainability.
Piquette is naturally made and has its own unique story. As rehydrated second pressings of pomace, the grape skins, pulp, seeds, and stems that remain after the first crush, this low-input beverage is an economical way of reducing winemaking waste. Farmhands and vineyard workers traditionally consumed it during the 19th century in Europe, but the first U.S. release didn’t occur until late 2017.
In New York’s Hudson Valley, Todd Cavallo, of the sustainably-focused Wild Arc Farm, lays claim to launching this winemaking trend stateside.
The basics behind Piquette
The basic recipe for Piquette is simple. Add water to the pomace from the first pressing and let it ferment. This mixture has less sugar than the grape juice from the first pressing and has a lower level of alcohol once fermentation is complete. Piquette typically has just four to nine percent alcohol by volume (ABV), compared to 12 to 14 ABV for most wines, making it an appealing lunchtime, or anytime, option.
The idea of recycling pomace is appealing to many winemakers, especially in Oregon where sustainable agriculture is common practice. Here’s a shortlist of Oregon wineries that have dipped their toes in Piquette production.
Jack Tregenza at Johan Vineyards near Rickreall released his first Piquette in the spring of 2020. It was made from pinot noir and Melon de Bourgogne pomace, which he blended with a small amount of pinot noir wine. His Piquette has an earthy quality with red fruit and herbal notes and a good amount of fizz.
Details: The final product is 6%-8% ABV, allowing it to serve as a transitional beverage for beer and hard cider drinkers. It is available online and at the winery in 750-ml bottles.
Visit: 4285 N. Pacific Hwy (99W), Rickreall, OR
Kimberley Kramer of Kramer Vineyards in Gaston was in the middle of a harvest when she decided that she would rather drink Piquette than hard seltzer. Her version is primarily made from Grüner Veltliner and Müller-Thurgau pomace. However, it also contains hard-pressed pinot gris to increase acidity and red grape pressings that create shades of saffron.
Kramer’s fizzy Piquette Nouveau is fruit-forward with grapefruit, peaches and tangerines, making it reminiscent of Stiegl Radler, a grapefruit-flavored shandy from Austria.
Details: 7.5 percent ABV. Released in spring 2020 in 12-ounce longnecks and 750-ml bottles.
Visit: 26830 NW Olson Rd, Gaston, OR
Winemaker and co-owner Dave Cho recently announced the inaugural release of Cho Wines. Six Pinot Noir iterations under the Cho Wines family label include their 2020 CHO Laurel Vineyard Pique Me Piquette. Their prized high elevation, single-vineyard source has been farmed for the last 40 years.
The Chos produced a 2020 sparkling from the Pinot Noir grapes and its lightly pressed pomace was the foundation for their ancestral farm drink. With overtones of cider and ale, Cho Wines Piquette is a serious contender in the transitional beverage market.
Details: 9.5% ABV. Sold out May 2021. Get on their mailing list for future availability online.
Winemaker Nate Wall, of Troon Vineyard in Grants Pass, crafts both a Piquette and a pét-nat from dark red Tannat grapes. The wine drink made from them is clear, originating from free-run juice the winery draws off immediately for fermentation. Their “frugal farmer fizz” from the remaining juice undergoes late-fermentation bottling that produces effervescence.
Upcycling their pomace is reflective of Troon’s overall commitment to making certified biodynamic and organic wine. The Troon vineyard and winery earned Demeter certification in 2020, the world’s largest certification program for biodynamic agriculture.
Details: ABV 10.5%; Available online and at the winery tasting room.
Visit: 1475 Kubli Rd, Grants Pass, OR
Roots Wine Co.
Chris Berg of Roots Wine Co. in Yamhill converts their Sauvignon Blanc pomace into 2019 “LORA” Piquette. He follows the traditional method without the spritz, emphatically stating, “If it’s sparkling, it isn’t Piquette as originally produced.” This is because the first makers of Piquette were unable to seal their fermentation vessels, which is a requirement for retaining the carbon dioxide (CO2) that provides sparkling wine with its spritz.
Details: ABV 5%; available in 250-ml cans.
Visit: 19320 NE Woodland Loop Rd, Yamhill, OR
A final word to first-timers. Some piquettes don’t undergo disgorgement so buyers should understand the wine will be under pressure. When opening, have a towel ready and point away!
Top image courtesy, clockwise starting top left: Troon Vineyards, Kramer Vineyards, Johan Vineyards, Roots Wine Co., Cho Wines.