The word piquette comes from the French nickname for bad wine. It’s also a derivative of the French word for prick or prickle, descriptors of the beverage’s light, sparkling character. Piquette is crafted from grape pomace, leftover grape materials that have already been pressed. While it is similar to wine, the beverage is more comparable to a sour beer or cider.
Piquette has slowly become more prevalent across the Australian winemaking scene and is now gaining momentum thanks to its low-alcohol content and light, easy-to-drink style. Hospitality speaks to Micah Hewitt from Defialy Wine and Kirstyn Keys from BK Wines about how piquette is made, the styles that can be produced, and
what they think the future holds for the drink.
BK Wines in the Adelaide Hills have been making piquette for a few vintages now. The description for the Love is Blind #6 Piquette reads: ‘Let’s start with a basic fact: piquette is not wine’. So what is it? While piquette is made from the same ingredient — grapes — the fruit has already been pressed. Pre-pressed grapes means there is less sugar present, resulting in lower levels of alcohol — usually around the 5 per cent mark.
Owner and Operator of BK Wines Kirstyn Keys says the lightly pressed grapes are the base ingredient of the drink. “Filtered water is added to the grapes and it’s then left to ferment away,” she says. “We then press it and bottle it to capture the naturally occurring CO2 which makes a lovely, pretty, light drink.”
Micah Hewitt from Defialy Wine in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges has been making piquette since 2020, and says it sits in the cider and sour beer space. “There’s still a bit of the sugar left in the pressed skins from the original grape,” he explains. “So when it is rehydrated with water, it basically ferments like normal grape juice would and that results in a low-alcohol beverage.”
As Hewitt explains, the method does not differ too much from winemaking. “Essentially, it’s the same sort of process, but you don’t need to have them on the
skins for as long,” he says. “It is also a lot quicker to ferment — a wine could take one to two weeks to fully ferment, whereas a piquette can take three days.”
There’s a lot of room for experimentation with both white and red varieties when it comes to making piquette. “You can use any grape,” says Keys. “We use Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris which are picked early for sparkling wine and leave natural acidity in the piquette.”
BK Wines currently produces Love is Blind #6 and 2021 Good Name #3, which both have a Rosé-like shade, refreshing acidity, and notes of watermelon and raspberry.
Hewitt says he often uses varieties that are around at the time rather than being too specific. “I wouldn’t say there’s a type most people use,” he says. “It’s generally whatever winemakers have.” That being said, red varieties tend to be more
suited for piquette as grapes are picked at a later stage, resulting in more residual sugar after they are pressed.
Hewitt proposes Pinot Noir or Syrah for red varieties, while aromatic white styles such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer work well to enhance the flavour of the end product. Defialy Wines currently produce Unholy Water piquette which is made from whole-bunch, biodynamic Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
Grapes aside, the most important factor of making piquette comes down to concentration. “The problem you face with piquette is it can lack body because there isn’t that higher alcohol,” says Hewitt. To ensure a well-rounded drink, Hewitt
uses a higher ratio of oxygen to water. “It’s really important to get characteristics into it, so texture, tannin, and acidity.”
The low-alcohol, slightly effervescent, light style of piquette means it’s the ideal drink to commence or conclude a meal. “Piquette can be a great aperitivo; just make sure its chilled really well as it’s best served cold,” says Keys. “It’s a great alternative to sparkling grape juice and Champagne.”
Hewitt proposes piquette as an option for times when one would usually opt for a beer or a cider. “Sometimes you want something more interesting or for when a beer might leave you feeling a bit full,” he says.
Both Keys and Hewitt believe piquette’s low alcohol levels and method of using discarded grape pomace will see the drink’s popularity soar with winemakers and drinkers alike. Utilising grape waste was the motivation behind BK Wines’ decision to start making piquette. “We are on a journey to create zero waste in our winery and vineyards,” says Keys. “It [piquette] has certainly sparked interest, especially with more people looking at loweralcohol beverages.”
Hewitt has also found piquette as an ideal platform to redivert grape waste. “I thought it was a really cool way to get a second use out of the grape skin,” he says. “It’s a little bit different and fun to experiment with.”
Defialy Wine made around 500 litres during the first vintage with piquette, utilising around six to seven grape varieties for the drink. “Whenever I had pressed grape skins, I’d just experiment and make batches,” says Hewitt. After the success of the first vintage, Hewitt has produced piquette annually, and believes it has grown in popularity.
“Piquette is probably where pet-nat was five years ago where no one knew what it was, and now there are so many,” he says. “Everyone has started making them [pet-nat] and now there’s more of a saturated market.” Piquette is still in the process of being understood and accepted by the drinking public, but as more winemakers opt to make it, it’s poised to become a mainstay.