Wine: A lip stinger for summer
Have you noticed it yet and wondered what it is? There's more of it around, both in the shops and on menus, often turning up as a pocket-friendly house white.
But it's unfamiliar and a bit of a tongue twister, so you play safe and head for more comfortable territory, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
Fine, but depending on which of the latter you plump for, if it's a fresh and fruity white you want, then you could do better by showing an adventurous side and trying a Picpoul de Pinet.
Unusually for a traditional French wine, the label gives the name of the grape as well as its region.
Picpoul is the grape -- it may be new to your vocabulary but it built its reputation hundreds of years ago in the Languedoc region of southern France, to which it is native. It was once popular as a basis for the herby fortified wine Vermouth.
Pinet is the small area south of Montpellier, not far from the sea near Agde and Meze, where the white version of the variety grows so well that it warranted a protected designation, hence Picpoul de Pinet.
It is one of those inexpensive yet interesting wines that doesn't command the same prices as some household names, but often delivers far more bang for buck and is therefore worth exploring in these post-boom times.
Picpoul, or Piquepoul, translates as lip stinger, but don't let that put you off. It acquired that moniker because of its naturally high acidity, the component in grapes that gives wine its crisp and cutting edge. That Picpoul, a white grape, can accumulate and retain such freshness in steamy southern France is a testimony to its strong character.
I regard it most of all as a summer drinker. It's only a tiny step beyond your basic Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio; full bodied, its characteristic lemony twist is rounded off with floral aromatics.
Picpoul de Pinet is the very thing for a sunny afternoon or early evening in the garden. It's great with fish and shellfish such as oysters, a local speciality, although I haven't yet savoured that pleasure.
So, if the ash cloud has made you hesitant about booking a flight to Carcassonne (pictured), this is one way to enjoy a taste of the Med without any hassle, unless the corkscrew acts up!
To avoid that, there's a couple of screwcap versions featured here.