Move over, rosé – this summer, we’re drinking piquette. A cousin of Pét-Nat and orange wines, piquette technically can’t be called wine, as it’s made from pomace (the grape skins, seeds, stems and pulp left over from the wine-making process) as opposed to fermented grapes. Winemakers add water to the pomace and ferment it, resulting in a fizzy quality.
Piquette is often compared to sour beer or kombucha – because it isn’t filtered, it often features a little sediment in the bottle, giving it a cloudier characteristic than other wines. “It’s tart, fruity and aromatic depending on what kind of grapes you’re using – piquette takes one note of a single varietal and exaggerates it,” says Alisha Blackwell-Calvert, a certified sommelier and wine consultant. “It’s kind of a fun, juicy but not so serious way to reuse your scraps from winemaking.”
Over the past few years, the historic European style has seen a huge resurgence, most notably on the East Coast, and now, it’s starting to make its way across the country. “I think there’s, in general, interest in mining the past [and] mining other cultures to try to understand what has been done that we’ve forgotten,” says Doug Frost, a master sommelier, American Master of Wine and the beverage director of The Restaurant at 1900 in Mission Woods, Kansas. “And piquette is definitely one of those animals. It’s kind of like Pét-Nat – there are all sorts of styles and no boundaries on how you make it. It’s just a word that means we took our trash and managed to squeeze more good out of it.” With that in mind, piquette hits on several of this year’s biggest drinking trends: it’s naturally made, low-ABV – typically between 4 and 9 percent – and sustainable. Here, meet two local producers embracing the funky style.
Fence Stile Vineyards & Winery
Fence Stile Vineyards & Winery is no stranger to innovation. Located in Excelsior Springs, Missouri – approximately 40 minutes outside of Kansas City – the winery started producing a late-harvest orange wine in 2018 and offers a popular low-ABV wine, KAIscape, year-round. On Leap Day, Fence Stile released the first Missouri-made piquette, a fizzy, 9-percent-ABV, hazy pink wine made with Chambourcin grapes, which lend it light berry flavors and give it a little pluminess. Owner and winemaker Shriti Plimpton says she wanted to work with Chambourcin grapes for the beautiful color; the grapes themselves are violet, releasing a pink or red juice. “The thing I love about the piquette is that you actually get to taste the harvest – it tastes like the grapes without being grape juice,” she says. “They’re a little bit lighter and more refreshing, and the sparkling characteristic makes it bright and fresh.” Plimpton says she’d love to play around with the style again; in her next piquette, she’d like to use a white grape varietal.
Fence Stile Vineyards & Winery, 31010 W. 124th St., Excelsior Springs, Missouri, fencestile.com
The Cape Girardeau brewery uses historic and wild yeast strains to produce an ever-changing lineup of unique beers.
Ebb and Flow Fermentations
DeWayne Schaaf jokes that he’s a natural wine junkie. The owner of Ebb and Flow Fermentations in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, which specializes in beers made with historic and wild yeast strains, was immediately drawn to the way piquettes are made. “I tend to like the second-used fruit almost more – there’s a delicacy to it that I really dig,” he says. Released last fall, Ebb and Flow’s bright pink Eine Kleine Piquette is far from traditional, as it uses a beer base instead of water. The spent skins and seeds from a previous Chambourcin beer-wine hybrid (featuring local grapes from The Barrens Winery in Perryville) were added to a lighter blonde beer base and then refermented. Schaaf likens his take on piquette, which he recommends pouring at cellar temperature, to the Beaujolais Nouveau style, as it has a subtle fruitiness, light tart flavor and not much sweetness at all. Schaaf says the brewery will definitely experiment with more piquettes, perhaps one made with Norton or Noiret grapes. “It fills this weird void between wine and beer,” he says. “It’s really light, low in alcohol and very refreshing.”
Ebb and Flow Fermentations, 11 S. Spanish St., Cape Girardeau, Missouri, ebbandflowfermentations.com