Many modern culinary staples can trace their roots to simple countryside recipes, and the latest wine trend, piquette, is no exception.
The fizzy, low-alcohol wine derivative has been a staple for vineyard workers throughout Europe for centuries. It begins with the grape skins, or pomace, that are left over after the fruit is pressed for wine. Vintners add water back to the pulp to kickstart a natural yeast fermentation, and then press the skins a second time. The resulting funky, steeped grape juice is kind of like wine tea.
“It’s definitely an acquired taste,” says Dave Cho of Oregon’s CHO Wines. “If you’re looking for a classic representation of wine, this isn’t it. It’s a rustic, farmworker’s drink that was served during the day’s lunch.”
There are several reasons for piquette’s stateside resurgence. First, corresponding with current trends, it’s sustainable. “I’m really excited about the idea of getting extra mileage out of our grapes, making tasty drinks, and reducing waste,” says Dave Potter of Municipal Winemakers in Santa Barbara.
Second, while there are strict rules surrounding the production of many fine wines—encompassing grape varietals, barrel aging, and production techniques—making piquette is a free-for-all. Potter’s first piquette, which he made after reading about the beverage in 2019, was a mead hybrid that used local honey. He has also expanded what he’s learned from piquette production, rehydrating pressed grape skins but blocking fermentation to make non-alcoholic drinks that maintain a sense of terroir.
For his part, Cho noticed during harvest how much high-quality juice was left in the grapes after they were gently pressed for sparkling wine. The Korean-American winemaker now produces three different sparkling wines from single-vineyard Willamette Valley pinot noir—a méthode champenoise blanc de noirs, an unfiltered pétillant-naturel, and a piquette from the leftovers.
“We consider it a wine drink rather than wine,” Cho says. “Most folks have a firm take on piquette: Either you love it or you don’t.”