Last night I met a couple of chums in Wright Brothers Oyster bar by Borough Market in London. They've got a small but reasonable wine list that's well matched to their menu of Oysters every which way and a pile of other seafood dishes. We had a dozen mixed oysters - four each of English, Irish and French - followed by a collection of things to share; half a pint of prawns, razor clams with chorizo and peas, fish soup, whitebait and a dressed crab, all served with their home-made mustard mayonnaise. The razor clams were a bit gritty but that aside, all the dishes were truly excellent. I'd go as far to say as the fish soup was one of the best I've had, and I've had lots of fish soup - the flavour was incredibly deep, rich and satisfying. The whitebait too were superb; not a soggy fish in sight, all were crisp and crunchy, like a very superior bar snack.
To accompany all this fine fare the wine list presented us with the usual options of quality, crisp, white wines that you would hope and expect to see alongside sea-food; Champagne, Chablis and Muscadet to name three of the most obvious. However, we opted for an equally appropriate but more obscure and better value option - Picpoul de Pinet.
What? Well, it's a wine zone in the Languedoc, on the mediterranean coast of France. It's found within the wider regional appellation of Coteaux de Languedoc, that contains a host of different sub-zones, many of them trying to forge enough of their own identity to be granted the right to split out and go it alone. Picpoul de Pinet is an example of a successful one of these, escaping from the umberella of Coteaux de Languedoc in 1985 and now being a cru in its own right. It's made from 100% Picpoul, a variety rarely seen elsewhere. It's an old and good quality variety, noted for it's high acidity (a real benefit in the South of France), with simple but agreeable lemon flavours. Typically consumed young it's not for ageing and makes a great value alternative to more expensive sea-food partners.