One of the most common questions I get when speaking at a wine dinner or guided wine tasting is what's the best wine for $10 or less? And understandably, most are disappointed when I inform them that $15 is the new $10.
In fact, these days, $25 is the price point (i.e., the price ceiling) for maximization of the QPR (quality-price ratio) in wine.
But there are a few exceptions to this rule of thumb. One of my favorites is Picpoul, a high-acidity, citrus-packed white grape from Southern France that generally weighs in under $15 and often under $10.
(For the record, many often repurpose content from ill-prepared would-be philologists who claim that Picpoul means lip stinger. In fact, the grape name comes from Catalonian picapoll or picapolla, etymology unknown, although some scholars believe that it is possibly derived from piquar meaning to pierce, prick or sting, akin to the English piquant. Like with so many grape names, we'll probably never know its true origin.)
Picpoul de Pinet, the most famous expression of the grape, is raised in the township of Pinet, which lies nearly equidistant from Narbonne and Montpellier along the southern coast of France.
The Gérard Bertrand, which I picked up at the Houston Wine Merchant for under $15, paired wonderfully with my self-styled Sonora dogs the other night, and I loved how the wine's acidity stood up to the bitterness and acidity of the Dijon mustard that I slathered generously on my bacon-wrapped Hebrew National (an irony of sorts, I know...I know...).
Spec's also has a couple of labels for under $10 (just make sure they give you the current vintage and not last year's).
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One of the coolest things about Picpoul is that no one (at least in my experience) ever gives the grape the "California treatment." In other words, no one pumps up the alcohol (through aggressive manipulation in the cellar), and no one ages it in new wood in order to impart oaky flavors to the wine (it's generally made in stainless-steel vats). As a result, it's one of those wines that you can count on even when you're not familiar with the producer. And because it's so reasonably priced, I never hesitate to pick up a bottle.
A great pairing for a cost-effective, satisfying meal...Sonora dog, anyone?