If you learned French from stuffy old textbooks, you might know the term piquette only from its slang meaning: bad wine. But true piquette isn’t wine at all—it’s a sustainably made alcoholic beverage that uses the parts of grapes that don’t go into wine. Wine grapes go through an initial pressing to create the grape juice that is later fermented into wine. What is leftover is pomace, a mass of grape stems, skins, and seeds, which would normally be thrown out. But for those willing to turn another man’s trash into their treasure, that pomace can be fermented a second time to create piquette, a tart, fizzy drink similar in taste to kombucha or sour beer.
Long before “upcycling” entered the common vernacular, vineyard workers made piquette as a secondary product to be enjoyed for personal use after their grapes had been pressed for making wine. The process was always a small scale local one, but in recent years, some American wineries have picked up the practice as a way to reduce waste and experiment with new flavor profiles.
The name piquette translates to “prickle,” because it is so intensely fizzy that it prickles the tongue. (Be careful opening those bottles…) The flavor of piquette can be completely different depending on the blend, as several different grape varieties are generally fermented together. They tend to be low-ABV and great for drinking cold on your rooftop, or by the beach. Here are some of the piquette brands you can buy in the U.S. this summer.
Wild Arc Farm
Their wines and piquettes only drop twice a year (in fall and spring), so if you’re interested in ordering them you should sign up for their mailing list. But it’s worth checking in to see what they have on tap, from their sparkling rosé-style piquette to a skin-contact orange piquette. Wild Arc Farm sells piquettes in cans and bottles, with an ABV of 7%, made with the local grape pomace from their wines and refermented in bottle with local wildflower honey.
American Wine Project
Out in Wisconsin, American Wine Project makes inventive Pet Nats and whole cluster fermented wines, but they also dabble in the piquette world. American Wine Project currently sells two bottled piquettes, a white grape piquette called Light Verse, and a red grape piquette called Wit & Wisdom, each at 7% ABV. We’re partial to the Wit & Wisdom, which is tart and fizzy, but a highly drinkable crowd pleaser nonetheless.
Old Westminster in Maryland loves to experiment, offering Pet Nats, honey-sweetened white wines, and tea-infused “teaquettes.”
They currently sell two bottled piquettes, and an assortment of canned piquettes, which are fermented with native yeast and blended with first press wines to produce a slightly stronger product. Blinded By The Light, their white piquette, is blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Vidal, while one of their other piquettes, Come Together, is a rosé piquette blended with rosé wine. (Don’t let the deep purple color fool you.) Our favorite is their canned Skin Contact Piquette, which is a little like a grown up version of a grapefruit White Claw.
Lora Sauvignon Blanc Piquette
This is my favorite piquette that I’ve had so far. The Lora Sauvignon Blanc Piquette is named for the ancient Roman term for piquette. These canned piquettes have a gorgeous floral quality to them, crisp and refreshing at 5% ABV. These piquettes are produced by Roots Wine Co. in Oregon, and are vegan and made using indigenous yeasts.
Catherine Rickman is a writer, professional francophile, and host of the Expat Horror Stories podcast. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.