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Here's How to Get Fans of White Claw and High Noon to Drink Wine

Low in alcohol, refreshing, and affordable, Piquette is positioned to step into hard seltzer's territory.

<p>Getty</p>

Getty

Drinks that are lower in alcohol, refreshing, and more acidic have risen in popularity over the past few years. Among these is piquette, the “new” historic wine you may have never heard of, but should definitely know.

What is piquette?

“Piquette is a second wine made from rehydrated grape pomace [the leftover skins, stems, and seeds] after pressing it for normal wines,” explains Todd Cavallo, Hudson Valley-based winemaker at Wild Arc Farm. This practice dates back centuries and was popular among, Greek, Roman, and other Mediterranean winemakers. In short, piquette was created as an easy-drinking beverage for field workers, and was ultimately designed to provide some much-needed energy during long days in the vineyards — and although the French word loosely translates to plonk, producers across America are proving it’s anything but that.

Cavallo’s experience with making piquette is unique, as he was the first winemaker to ever commercially produce it in North America in 2017. Cavallo says that a year prior, his friend Tristan Gild, a former buyer for Kingston Wine Co., gave him a book called The Red and the White: The History of Wine in France and Italy in the Nineteenth Century, which featured a short chapter on piquette. The book inevitably inspired him to make one himself, and after dozens of trials, he ended up with a light, sparkling beverage produced with wildflower honey and press wine (juice that is removed from the skins and seeds). Since then, Cavallo and his team have honed their process somewhat to keep things “leaner, cleaner, and more delicious” — but the basic recipe remains the same.

Sommelier-turned-winemaker Patrick Cappiello of Lodi, California-based Monte Rio Cellars explains that he “fruits” his piquettes during the fermentation process by adding organic fruit purées to the mix. Jim Fischer, co-owner and winemaker at Fossil & Fawn in Oregon, adds unfermented Riesling juice to his recipe to stabilize pH levels and boost ABV, which must reach a minimum of 7% to legally be sold as wine in the United States.

Beyond its low ABV and easy-drinking nature, piquette is an environmentally friendly option for both winemakers and consumers alike. “Piquette is a sustainable wine choice, as it’s true upcycling,” explains Evyn Cameron, winemaker at Une Femme Wines. “We’re making something delicious from ingredients that would otherwise be trashed,” she affirms. Fischer shares that he first made piquette in 2020 during a vintage with low yields when his team needed to figure out a way to make something to help keep the lights on, piquette was a perfect solution; It not only created additional inventory but also gave pomace (the skin and seed residue leftover from the winemaking process) destined for the compost pile another chance at life. 

Related: 14 Low-Alcohol Wines to Sip This Not-So-Dry January

How to drink piquette

”Fischer defines piquette as easy, slightly boozy, fizzy, and thirst-quenching. “We don’t really think of it as a wine, but more of a wine-adjacent beverage. We sometimes (jokingly) refer to it as Burgundy-flavored White Claw, or the beer of Champagnes,” he adds.

Cavallo likens piquette to more of a wine cooler or wine spritz than traditional wine; Technically speaking, he explains that the fermentation of piquette tends to favor lactic-acid bacteria more than a standard low-pH wine fermentation, thus creating flavors that lean towards a sour beer, kombucha, or even fermented foods like sauerkraut. However, final flavor profiles can be heavily dependent on the type or amount of honey used, as well as the botanicals or fruit inclusions added.

More piquette, more problems?

But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for piquette producers. Cavallo explains that although demand has been increasing steadily over the past few years, supply has also increased, leading to two key problems: pricing disparity and inconsistency in quality.

He notes that large producers who sell more than 10,000  cases of wine annually often craft piquette as a byproduct, and  sell it cheaply, while those who put more emphasis into the product will naturally yield higher costs. eyond pricing, both Cavallo and Cappiello believe that quality inconsistency leaves countless consumers with negative first experiences with the style, thus leading to an imminent demise in demand. “Unfortunately, a lot of producers weren’t using care or intention to ensure deliciousness across the category,” says Cappiello, who remains hopeful that heightened interest in low-ABV beverages and a renewed emphasis on quality will lead consumers to give piquette another try.

Related: 11 Low-Alcohol Cocktails Every Party Host Needs to Know

How is piquette made?

Cappiello notes that from a natural vinification perspective, producing piquette is a no brainer. “It makes sense [for winemakers] who want to do something good for the planet, especially if we can recycle and reuse something that would go into a landfill or compost,” he explains. From a consumer standpoint, Cappiello describes piquette as a great opportunity to cater to the new generation of drinkers who gravitate towards products like High Noons or White Claws. “It’s like natty kid seltzer, it fits the bill — Todd [Cavallo] even canned his, which is smart,” he says.

Aesthetically speaking, Cappiello notes that many piquettes look similar to pét-nats, as many of them are cloudy and packaged in clear bottles, which likely attracted natural wine lovers to the bottles to begin with. From a taste perspective, Cavallo finds that the low-ABV and high-acidity  piquette is likely what endears it to the natural wine crowd. Cameron credits piquette’s rise in popularity as being driven by a younger generation of drinkers looking for something fun, approachable, with less alcohol, and easy on the wallet.

Cavallo calls piquette an anytime beverage that doesn’t need the contemplation of a fine wine. “It can take the place of any beverage in the ‘refreshing’ category — think your lawnmower beer, poolside [pick], or as a replacement for your mimosa at brunch,” he says. Fischer agrees, stating that any situation where one would want an ice-cold beer is perfect for piquette, “which should also be served ice-cold and without pretense.”

Essentially, Cavallo believes that people should be reaching for piquette when they want a better version of a hard seltzer. Wild Arc’s piquettes, for example, are made only with grapes, honey, and water, as opposed to malt liquor processed in a lab.

“We’re trying to craft a low-alcohol product that’s actually produced in the vineyard,” Cappiello explains. “By making piquette from upcycled grape pomace, we are focusing on a product that appeals to the health-conscious and budget-conscious consumer who is passionate about sustainability, [and offering] a product with less alcohol and cost than regular wine.” We’ll drink to that. 

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