What’s a piquette?

If you hang out in trendy spots where sommeliers whisper excitedly about orange wine, pet nat, and natural wines, you may already know about piquette.

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If you’re sitting there feeling a bit perplexed, hang on. Today we’re going to talk about this obscure vineyard treat that’s suddenly turning up in fancy eateries and wine bars … and maybe even your local wine shop.

So what’s a piquette? And for that matter, how do you even say it? The word is French, of course, and English speakers can get pretty close by saying “pee-kett.”

Piquette is an ancient, lightly alcoholic tipple that may go back as far as Roman times. It is not even technically wine, says the Wine-Searcher.com Piquette page. Rather, it’s made with pomace, the dripping mass of grape skins, seeds, and stems that remain after the grapes are pressed. The pomace is mixed with water, then fermented from the natural sugars that remain in the crushed fruit.

“Historically,” the Wine-Searcher editorial team adds, “the drink tended to be made by vineyard and winery workers for their own consumption. The history of the drink is rather murky. however, as in French bars the term might have also applied to watered down or adulterated wine. In fact Piquette is also a slang term for low quality wine.”

Piquette is even banned by law from commercial sale in the European Union, which requires that pomace be used only for distillation into the potent drink that the French know as “marc” and the Italians call “grappa.” This policy is not based on piquette’s perceived quality or lack thereof but simply an economic move to shrink what was then an oversupply of cheap, anonymous wines.

Nevertheless, as a lightly alcoholic beverage that uses free ingredients and that can be produced quickly, piquette has remained popular with vineyard and winery workers. “Derived from the French word for ‘prick’ or ‘prickle,’ which describes the drink’s slight fizz, piquette dates to ancient Greek and Roman times,” according to a May 2023 report by Christina Pickard in Wine Enthusiast. “Considered a meager, cheap-to-produce drink made from the scraps of winemaking, it was given to slaves and field workers.”

Vineyard owners in France approved, the Wine Enthusiast article added: “In France, piquette is said to have been the preferred drink of vineyard workers at the lunch table, as its low alcohol encouraged post-lunch productivity rather than an alcohol-fueled stupor.”

Piquette is gaining favor in the United States, Wine-Searcher added, because it is seen as a moderately priced successor to recent sommelier favorites orange wine and the naturally sparkling “pet-nat” (pétillant naturel).

Today’s featured wine, Sanctum “Stix & Bugs” Piquette, comes from the Stajerska wine region in the far eastern corner of Slovenia, close to its borders with Austria, Hungary, and Croatia.

Sanctum winery's steep vineyards in Stajerska Slovenia.

Sanctum winery’s steep vineyards in Stajerska Slovenia.

This Piquette is not labeled as organic, but the producer bills its approach as environmentally friendly and sustainable viticulture, with respect for the land, no irrigation and no herbicides. The producer Sanctum, adds, “As our vineyards are not burdened by any chemical agents, artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, we produce less, but healthier grapes. Our wines arise from spontaneous fermentation with natural yeasts. We strive not for quantity but for quality.”

It’s a pleasant change of pace, and with spring likely to start verging toward summer before we know it, a fine choice for hot-weather sipping.


Today’s Tasting Report

Sanctum NV “Stix & Bugs” Stajerska Slovenia Piquette ($17.99)

Sanctum "Stix & Bugs" Piquette

A blend of Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, and Pinot Noir grapes, Sanctum “Stix & Bugs” Piquette is described as a red frizzante (lightly sparkling) wine and sealed with a beer-bottle style crown cap. Hazy rosy-orange in color with distinct sediment collected at the bottom of the bottle, it pours up with a thick pinkish foam that falls back fast. Right out of the refrigerator it seems simple and fresh, strawberry scents with a touch of damp clay. As it warms in the glass it becomes much more complex, adding notes of yeast, a faint hint of dairy, and a leafy, vegetal whiff of the forest floor. Dry and prickly with gentle carbonation, it’s dry and light with just 8% alcohol. A good pick for spring or summer sipping. U.S. importer: Vinum USA Inc., Basking Ridge, N.J. (April 19, 2024)

FOOD MATCH: Treat it as a sparkling wine, versatile with a range of foods or enjoyed on its own. I enjoyed it with a veggie pizza slice, spicy brothy beans, and even a simple salad.

WHEN TO DRINK: Piquette isn’t made for aging. The in-bottle fermentation and low-acid construction don’t bode well for long storage. Pop the cap and drink up.

Wine-Searcher.com’s $25 average U.S. retail appears to be an outlier, with actual retail prices ranging from $11.39 to $22. I’d buy it again in the teens, but perhaps not for $25.

Sanctum Wines has an extensive website in English. Here’s a link to a page outlining their wine making philosophy, their story, and their wines. For specifics on this piquette, check this producer fact sheet.

Check prices and find vendors for Sanctum “Stix & Bugs” Piquette on Wine-Searcher.com.

Read more about piquette and browse a variety of offerings at this Wine-Searcher link.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to learn about Stajerska Slovenia and its wines.

Browse Sanctum Wine’s portfolio and vendor sources on Wine-Searcher.com.


Find the wines you want

Explore Wine-Searcher

Wine-Searcher.com is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, Wine-Searcher.com offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.


Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!


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