Move over, rosé. According to drinks writer Katie Spain, the biggest wine trend this spring will be piquette – a low-alcohol drop made from leftover grape skins.
"Piquette is not a new concept by any means," says Spain. "Traditionally, it was a vineyard workers' drink in France. After wine is made, grape skins are rehydrated for a second fermentation. This means you get some of the first wine's flavour, sugar and acid, but in lighter, spritzy form.
"It's a style that can be chilled and is perfect for the Australian climate. I think we're going to see piquettes explode like daffodils this spring."
Spain joins the Herald and The Age this week as drinks writer for Good Food. (Wine critic Huon Hooke will still contribute tasting notes for the Tuesday food section and his Good Weekend column.)
The Adelaide-based journalist was previously a wine and features writer for Australia's Wine Business Magazine and The Advertiser. Spain is also the author and co-author of many publications about Australian winemakers, including The Highly Improbable Audacious Adventures of Wirra Wirra, named best book at the Wine Communicator Awards in 2019.
Piquette may prove controversial with traditional winemakers and brands, says Spain, "but bring it on".
"The trend of drinking lower-alcohol, lighter wine isn't going away, and as long as the wines are well made, the more the better," she says.
"My job as a writer is to connect people with the stories behind what's in the bottle and break down some of the fear around wine and new drink styles such as piquette.
"People often stick with what they know because they're too scared to try something else – maybe they think they will look stupid if they don't like it, or ask too many questions. But life's too short to worry about that."
The daughter of a dairy farmer from Meningie, South Australia, Spain grew up in a small country town "covered in more excrement and milk than you could possibly imagine".
Drinks on the farm largely consisted of West End, VB, and port and Coke, however, Spain developed a love for the world of wine and cellar doors thanks to her father's fondness for Coonawarra cabernet.
"My parents had a very European attitude when it came to letting me have a sip and sniff of wine when I was younger. We also had lots of international workers on the farm who sparked a real interest in foreign tastes and cultures."
Spain's first Good Food feature will be published on Tuesday, detailing her favourite things to drink right now, such as bitter amaro, Barossa cabernet and petillant naturel, better known as pet-nat, the fun and fizzy style of wine rising in popularity around the country.
"I'm also loving skin-contact amber wines at the moment, particularly releases coming out of Georgia. Light, crunchy reds are another go-to, such as an early-release grenache you might be inclined to slightly chill before a barbie."
However, there are a few things Spain would like to see less of in the Australian drinks scene, too.
"Cellar doors with inattentive staff, for one, plus restaurants with substandard glassware. And low-kilojoule beer or wine promoted as a way to lose weight also rubs me the wrong way as it often lacks flavour. Drink water if you want to watch your waistline."
Three piquettes to try
Made from leftover grape skins, piquette plays into many new wine trends such as an increased focus on sustainability and the prevalence of low-alcohol, easy-drinking drops. Just don't expect something similar to wine – many piquettes taste more like sour beer or scrumpy cider, says Spain.
Here are three to try available at select independent bottle shops and online retailers before more new releases arrive in spring. Spain highly recommends BK Wines Piquette Atomic Bomb when it drops in August.
Gilbert Family Wines Piquette 2021, Orange, $24
A tangy blend of gewurztraminer and sangiovese with notes of rosewater and musk (pictured above right). Inspired by the piquettes winemaker Will Gilbert encountered in North America where the style has been rising in popularity over the past few years.
Defialy Wine Wild & Free Bitza Piquette 2021, Heathcote, $20
Handmade by butcher and winemaker Micah Hewitt in the Macedon Ranges, this experimental release is ready to drink now with anything from Cheezels to comte. Bright with wild-fermented fiano and pecorino skins plus fruity shiraz and carmenere (pictured right).
Vinden Wines Piquette 2021, Hunter Valley, $25
Starring organic Hunter shiraz skins for a dry, refreshing quaffer weighing in at five per cent alcohol. Ideal for picnics and charcuterie when the sun's out (pictured top).