Cooking to the Wine: Font-Mars Picpoul de Pinet with Crab Cakes and Fennel-Apple Salad


It’s a bright, sunny day outside in the Bay Area as I look out my window while writing this post. Sure, you still need a jacket on hand most of the time–but that’s true most of the year here. Spring is in full swing and has been for a while. These lovely sunshiny days calls for lighter fare and crisper wines. Cue: enter Picpoul Blanc.

This is a bright, zippy white grape that hails from the south of France. One can see right away how this grape would match perfectly with the coastal, Mediterranean cuisine of the region–it tends to have vibrant citrus flavors, sometimes laced with pretty floral notes. Its natural mouthwatering acidity gives the grape its name which translates as “stings the lip." Alongside that acid, these wines still tend to have body, with a roundness that gives them a tangy quality. It’s absolutely perfect for quenching your thirst on a hot day, not the least because Picpoul wines (also spelled Piquepoul) tend to be available at extremely wallet friendly prices.

The AOC Picpoul de Pinet is devoted entirely to this grape and is the largest white wine appellation in the Languedoc. I’ve covered several other wines from the Languedoc (like this one on
Corbières and Minervois) but this appellation runs along the coast, separated from the Mediterranean Sea only by the Bassin de Thau, an 11 mile long  lagoon. The area is not all that large but it has varied topography that grows more jagged and hilly as you travel north, and rolls more gently as you approach the sea. Apparently, the climate here is so mild and lovely that flamingos happily make it there home–some don’t even bother traveling during the winter months.

It would seem that Picpoul seems content with the region as well, since it’s been a resident for quite a long time. According to Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes, the earliest mention of Picpoul Blanc was in 1667. (Mentions of other versions of Picpoul go back further.) The soils in the area tend toward limestone and alluvial soils, with some significant sandy patches. It’s a good thing too that Picpoul likes the sand–this helped it survive the devastation of phylloxera, as this little bug does not care for sand at all.

Picpoul does also come in Noir and Gris varieties as well. The Gris version is nearly extinct, but the Noir is commonly used in blends. (I briefly mentioned a really fun varietal Picpoul Noir bottling in this post.)



THE PAIRING

Our wine today is the Font-Mars Picpoul de Pinet 2016. This was sent as sample for participation in this month’s French Winophiles event, and I was excited to receive it as I was already familiar with Font-Mars’ Rosé (read about it here) and bought several bottles throughout the summer last year for tasty, budget friendly refreshment.

Font-Mars is a family estate in an area where the co-ops dominate.The de Clock family, who own the estate, originally came from Holland. Jean Clock first came to France and settled in Bordeaux in 1679 and cultivated vines in that region. Several generations later,  Leon de Clock married Camille de Vulliod. Le Château Font-Mars (and there really is a beautiful Château) had been owned by Camille’s family. Leon undertook the management of the vineyards and domaine, and now their son Jean-Baptiste de Clock owns and manages the estate. 


Greg and I picked up notes of lemon, both zest and juice, green apple, and white flowers on the nose, with a little pink grapefruit, as well as white peach. It was rounder on the palate with more peachiness and floral notes. There were tangy Meyer lemons in the mix alongside the grapefruit and lemon, with notes of honeysuckle, and unsweetened canned pineapple juice. It was racy with medium+ acid, a supple medium body, and very moderate alcohol at 12.5%.

We definitely were feeling seafood for this wine, however, we thought it would hold up to something with a little more weight like tuna or salmon. The roundness of the texture also had us thinking of the sweet, creamy texture of certain shellfish like calamari, shrimp, or scallops. I liked the idea of something fried with this as it had body as well as acidity.

I landed on crab cakes for this meal. I kept them pretty simple but added lemon and orange juice and zest to capitalize on those notes in the wine, as well as a smattering of light, fresh green herbs. These crab cakes became low-carb by total accident. I’d run out of breadcrumbs and used almond flour as a substitute. The nutty component turned out to be a lovely complement in flavor. Note, however, that while the crab cakes had a wonderful light yet meaty texture, they were on the delicate side, so handle them gently.


 
Note: Bottles were sent as samples for participation in this event. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

We wanted something fresh and bright to accompany the crab cakes. Greg thought of bringing in green apples and shaved fennel, for that lightly floral licorice-y quality it has, and tossed it all with some carrots and green in a simple lemon dressing.

Because crab cakes jut scream for that extra bit of dipping sauce, I opted to make a rémoulade––well, two rémoulades actually. I couldn’t decide between the more herby-briny French version, and the spicier Louisiana version, so I made both. The French version  (pictured) was probably the better match, but we also just liked the little kick of spice from the Louisiana style and ended up kind of mixing them together on the plate. 


This meal worked so well together! In this case, the combo really elevated the wine, taking it up a notch from a simple table wine. Greg said he thought it might have been the most he’d ever enjoyed a crab cake. It’s possible he was trying to flatter me, but I happily took the compliment. 



THE GEEKY DETAILS


Taken from the producer’s website:

Terroir : Clay and chalk
Grape variety : Picpoul
Harvest : White grapes are picked with full organoleptic maturity in the middle of September, at night in order to preserve all their qualities of coolness.
Winemaking : De-Stemming cold pellicular maceration, pneumatic pressing, racking of the must and fermentation at low temperatures (15°-17°C/59°-63°F) during 20 days with daily control of specific gravities. Fining and filtration before bottling in the domain.

Drink within 2 years, serve between 12° and 14° C/ 54°-57°F.

 

MONEY TALK


The SRP on this is $15 (Wine-Searcher.com has the average price at $13) making this a very easy House Wine to enjoy all spring and summer long.  




OTHER POSSIBILITIES


I’ve already listed a few of the other dishes we considered above, and it’s no surprise here that the producer recommends this with seafood or as an aperitif. Languedocadventure.com also notes that Picpoul, “neutralizes the salt and iodine in shellfish and other crustaceans, and are also surprisingly good with rich cheeses and charcuterie.”

In addition to this sample, I also received the Domitia Picpoul de Pinet 2016, which we had the same night we got them with sous vide salmon in butter-garlic-herb sauce with potatoes and leeks (find that recipe here) and that also worked quite well. Here is my Instagram post on @NibblingGypsy of that meal.




Have been exploring #PicpouldePinet — zingy, easy drinking whites that are perfect for everyday drinking since they typically don’t break the bank. Here we paired one from #Domitia (#sample) w #Salmon topped with a garlicky butter sauce with leeks and potatoes. Check out @thesommstable tomorrow for a recipe paired with another #Picpoul. . . . The wine was really crips with green and gold apples. lemons, white flowers, a little green melon, lemon zest, and light green herbs. . . . The French Winophiles will also be discussing this grape on Twitter tomorrow morning at 8 am PT/ 11 am ET. Join us by following #Winophiles @languedocwines #languedocwines. ___________________________ #wine #vino #winestagram #winegeek #winenerd #corkdork #winelovers #winelover #winepairing #drinkwine #wineanddine #forkyeah #homecooking #foodgawker #foodandwine #wineoclock #zipkick #foodietribe #fabandfrugal #sommstable #salmon #seafood #winelife
A post shared by Nicole Ruiz Hudson (@nibblinggypsy) on


For another wine option, pick a white or rosé wine that has vibrant fruit with lots of acidity, that also has some body.

If you try this wine with another pairing you really enjoy, or vice versa, please share. I always want to hear from you!








Crab Cakes with Fennel-Apple Salad and Rémoulade Duo


Makes 3 to 4 servings
Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 



INGREDIENTS 


1 lb lump crabmeat,
⅓ cup almond flour, plus and additional ⅓ to ½ cup for dredging
2 Tbsp yogurt (or mayonnaise)
1 ½ tsp to 2 tsp mustard (to taste)
2 Tbsp chopped green onion
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 fennel bulb shaved, plus 1 Tbsp chopped fennel fronds
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/2 orange, juiced and zested
1 egg, whisked
½ cup olive oil, plus more for cooking
1 apple, cut into thin slivers
1 cup shredded carrots
Slivered or sliced almonds, for garnish
2 to 3 cups of salad greens
Salt
Pepper

Remoulade Sauces, homemade or purchased:
French-style Rémoulade
Louisiana-style Rémoulade  

 

INSTRUCTIONS


1. In a large mixing bowl, gently combine the crabmeat with the ⅓ cup almond flour, yogurt (or mayonnaise), ½ - 1 tsp mustard, ½ Tbsp each lemon juice and orange juice, 1 tsp lemon zest, generous pinch of the orange zest, the chopped green onions, parsley, fennel fronds, and season with salt and pepper. Try not break apart the crab any more than necessary. Taste and adjust seasonings.

2. Once the flavor is where you like it, fold in the whisked egg. Form the mixture into patties. Place additional ⅓ to ½ cup almond flour in a bowl and dredge the patties through the almond flour.

3. Heat a few tablespoons of oil (or combine the oil with butter) in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working in batches as needed, add the patties and cook until browned and crispy–about 5 to 6 minutes. Flip gently, as these crab cakes are delicate, and cook on the second side. Add more oil or butter as needed and lower the temperature if needed to prevent burning. Transfer to platter and keep warm until ready to serve. (I placed them in a warm oven to hold once cooked.)

4. Make the dressing while the crab cakes are cooking: combine the remaining lemon juice, orange juice, ⅓ to ½ cup olive oil, 1 tsp mustard, and a generous pinch each salt and pepper. Whisk until combined, thick, and emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Tips: I recommend starting with less olive oil and then gradually adding more in to give you control of the acidic balance of the dressing. I personally like dressings on the more acidic side, so I tend to use less olive oil than most. If a dressing ever seems too bitter, add a little bit of sugar. This brings out a little tangy note that rounds out the flavors.

5. Toss together the shaved fennel, the apples slivers, shredded carrots, and the salad greens. Gradually add dressing and toss until the salad is lightly coated. (You’ll have more dressing than you need for this sald. Serve extra dressing on the side and save the leftovers for another use.) Season with additional salt and pepper as need.

6. Serve crab cakes (1 to 2 per serving) with the salad and the rémoulade sauces on the side. 



Photo credit on all photos (other than Instagram) to Greg Hudson.


* * * * *

Join the French Winophiles in exploring this grape  this month: 
     
Here are a few more 8 & 20 recipes featuring Languedoc wines:

French Onion Soup and Filet Mignon With Onion Sauce
Lamb Kebabs With Israeli Couscous Salad
Beet Risotto with Herbed Chicken Tenders




Additional sources used for this post:


Wine-Searcher.com 

and 

  



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17 comments

  1. Another great food and wine adventure! I'm allergic to crab, so I won't be making crabcakes, but I can use fish instead. And I am definitely making that slaw! Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Oh no! But I could definitely see it working with some flaky white fish!

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  2. I didn't think about pairing the wines with crab cakes. Yum!

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  3. Your pairings sound delicious! Especially the sous-vide salmon. Looking forward to catching up next month!

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    1. It was good, but the crab cakes were on another level.

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  4. I love the idea of crabcakes with Picpoul, and I loved your "oops" low-carb improv!

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    1. It turned out really well! I might need to make that "mistake" going forward.

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  5. Love that you used almond flour in these crab cakes....this recipe is going on my to make list.

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  6. Your crab cakes with fennel apple salad looks delicious, perfect pairing! I am loving all the lighter fresher flavors of spring!!

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    1. That Halibut you made looked pretty spectacular as well!

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  7. Substantial and fresh - good call on the crab cakes and dipping sauces!

    I’ll have to look for the Font-Mars rosé - haven’t tried that yet.

    What a fun month for summer foods. Go Picpoul!

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  8. This is a great pairing - crab cakes with apples and fennel. Wow! I am saving this for future Picpoul pairings. So many great ideas this month. Thanks so much for sharing.

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