Piquette is the perfect thirst-quenching, low-ABV wine for drinking outside somewhere
As we move toward warmer weather, consider piquette. The low-alcohol wine is made by fermenting the pomace—leftover skins and dregs of the winemaking process—and diluting it with water. What results is a wine lover’s answer to summer-y spiked seltzers. It’s zippy, sessionable, slightly bubbly and certainly affordable—you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bottle over $20.
Traditionally, piquette was reserved for farmhands and winemakers to sip while working the fields, when wine may have been easier to come by than clean drinking water. And it’s low enough in alcohol (typically, 5-9 per cent ABV) to not impact productivity. “Vineyard work is very tough, physical work, and your body gets sore and full of aches and pains,” says Mike Traynor, of Prince Edward County’s Traynor Vineyard. “Piquette takes that edge off without putting you out.” There’s also a huge sustainability appeal to piquette. Once nothing more than compost, discarded wine skins can be a thirst-quenching source of revenue. “This actually allows me to bring down the prices on a lot of my wines because I’m getting a better yield from the grapes,” Traynor says.
Here’s our guide to Ontario’s spring-ready piquettes.
To make their single-serving bottles of piquette, Redtail combines leftover pomace from recent wines with other ingredients grown in Prince Edward County. And right now, each release pays tribute to a different front-line worker. The most recent drop is a floral, spicy wine made from skin-fermented gewurztraminer pomace and maple syrup from Walt’s Sugar Shack in the County. It’s named after Francine, a clinical and health psychologist who pivoted to help folks manage Covid-related anxiety. Later in the Spring keep an eye out for Alchemy, made with the skins from their new Field Hand pinot noir.
Bloor West wine bar Paradise Grapevine turned to winemaking as its pandemic pivot, and to much success. Their first few releases, including a zweigelt pet-nat, an orange wine, a gamay, and a piquette, sold out in a snap. Luckily there are more on the horizon, including a piquette launching on April 1. Initially, they had plans to make three different piquettes: chardonnay and blood orange; gewurztraminer and red plums; and cabernet franc. But the team blended them together on a whim and realized it worked—and worked well.
Traynor’s releases ebb and flow with the wines that are being bottled. Each year’s batch tends to depend on what they have on hand: Last year, Traynor used rainwater to make the wine, while this year, he’s adding cider made from local apples. The 2020 release is made with a broad-spectrum blend of gamay noir, cabernet franc, merlot, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling, vidal, marquette and syrah. Fun, refreshing, and not-so-serious summer wines.
Guelph’s Revel Cider was one of the first producers to start rolling out piquettes a few years back, and their releases are hotly anticipated. Revel makes piquette from almost every grape they work with, so expect a full range of juicy bottles, from bright fresh seyval blanc to dark moody reds.
Ilya and Nadia Senchuk’s quenchable iteration is made with a blend of different grapes they had on hand after bottling their spring wines (this time around it’s pinot gris, pinot noir and gamay), resulting in vibrant, cranberry-watermelon bubbles with a good dose of funkiness. Super refreshing with bright acidity, it’s a textbook Saturday-afternoon-in-the-sun drink.
Burdock has turned out a lot of beer-wine hybrids over the last six years. But the release of Piquey Bons marks their first straight up wine. Piquey Bons starts with upcycled Niagara cabernet franc skins (previously used to rest with barrel-aged beer), which are macerated with filtered with deoxygenated water for 15 days. It’s plenty acidic and has the vibrant colour of a purple Freezie.