Wine & Spirits - June 2020 - 8

WASTE N O T
Upcycling Grape Pomace

by SYDNEY LOVE

"Wineries are going to
realize they're sitting
on a gold mine of waste
product they could turn
into another beverage."
-Todd Cavallo,
Wild Arc Farm

8

WINE & SPIRITS

Though the rare French piquette does find its way
to the US, you're more likely to taste some if you
can befriend a vigneron. EU law limits piquette to
personal consumption or distillation, requiring an
exemption for export. Natural-wine evangelist Pascaline Lepeltier, MS, MOF, says it's complicated to
make piquette well, as the final product can be too
herbaceous, diluted or bacterial. But before addressing any of those concerns, she says, "To make good
piquette, you need good wine." The best piquette
she's ever had was in Bordeaux, while visiting Pascale
Choime and Laurence Alias of Closerie des Moussis;
the vigneronnes poured Lepeltier a semi-carbonic
merlot-based piquette. There, in Arsac, the duo farm
a range of small parcels under biodynamics. They
work with a total of five acres in the Haut-Médoc and
Margaux, their vines ranging from 30 to 150 years
old. It's the same kind of agrarian setting you'd envision where piquette got its start and still produces
its best work.
Just three years ago, this peasants' drink made
its way across the pond to Wild Arc, a ten-acre biodynamic farm in New York's Hudson Valley. Owner
Todd Cavallo had learned about piquette from a
friend who'd read about it in a history book on 19thcentury French and Italian wine; in 2017, Cavallo
produced what he believes to be the first commercial
piquette in the US. He produced 400 cases in 2019,
including a Hudson Valley traminette that shows off
the sour side of piquette with its tart lemon and seabreeze freshness.
Wild Arc's traminette and other piquettes are
among the 2,500-bottle low-intervention, organic
and biodynamic selections on the wine list penned
by Lepeltier and Arnaud Tronche at Racines in New
York. She finds that piquette's vegetal and high-acid
flavors, extracted from the stems and skins in the
grape pomace, work well with the restaurant's menu,
which focuses on vegetables and includes fermented
flavors in the housemade kimchi and pickles.
At least 20 other American winemakers have followed Cavallo's lead, many in New York and along
the East Coast, and a handful in California and Ore-

JUNE 2020

gon as well as in other states. The ten winemakers I
spoke with all linked their introduction to piquette
to Cavallo; six of them made it for the first time last
year, including Monte Rio and Ryme in California,
Kramer in Oregon and Lincoln Peak in Vermont.
Field Recordings, in Paso Robles, California, produced some at the request of its Missouri distributor.
"It's terrifying when you start to see stuff growing on your pomace after you add water," says winemaker Erin Rasmussen of American Wine Project
in Wisconsin. "How far you let that go will dictate
how earthy, funky, spicy or fruity the piquette will
be." Her 2019 Light Verse Piquette is made from
four white hybrid varieties, the pomace a mix of
what's left over after fermentation, direct pressing
and skin-contact regimes. She soaks that pomace
for ten days before pressing it to create an aromatic
wine that speaks of springtime, fresh honeydew and
honeysuckle.
Sean Comninos of William Heritage, in New Jersey, produced two piquettes last year after visiting
Cavallo's farm. One was made from the remnants
of his syrah, the pomace rehydrated for several days,
then pressed and blended with finished carbonic
syrah; before bottling, he added some local wildflower honey to generate some fizz. "It had beautiful
acidity," he says, "considering it was rehydrated with
water and [was based on] what we had been composting." The final product is seven percent alcohol,
radish-pink and aromatic, reminiscent of herbal tea,
with light red-fruit flavors and scents of rosebuds.
The curiosity about piquette's potential reaches
across the winemakers' board, whether it be wineries natural-identifying, natural-adjacent or artisanal,
and Cavallo believes it's inevitable that more producers will get into the game: "Companies are going to
realize they're sitting on a gold mine of waste product they could turn into another beverage."
Or maybe several more: Cavallo is now using his
pomace a third time for a co-fermented cider, before
he returns it to the soil as compost. For winemakers,
piquette's best attribute may be how it pushes them
to reconsider what is, or isn't, waste. ■

PHOTO OF TODD CAVALLO BY GIUSEPPE LACORAZZA

Piquette is a centuries-old tradition, a drink originally consumed by European vineyard
workers. Unable to afford the wine they produced for their overseers, they rehydrated
pressed grape pomace with water, then fermented it to make a secondary wine. The result
was often tart, with a vinegar-like flavor that could sting, or, in French, piquer. Adding
water to the grape pomace increases the ferment's pH, which in turn creates an ecosystem
of bacteria and yeast like that seen in sour beer or kombucha; handled well, piquette can
be a refreshing, low-alcohol, conscientious beverage.



Wine & Spirits - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wine & Spirits - June 2020

Contents
Wine & Spirits - June 2020 - Cover1
Wine & Spirits - June 2020 - Cover2
Wine & Spirits - June 2020 - 1
Wine & Spirits - June 2020 - Contents
Wine & Spirits - June 2020 - 3
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