With a gold like colour, luscious tropical fruit tones and a full body to pull it all together, Viognier is a bon-viveur’s dream wine.
If done properly a good Viognier can be like a late summer walk through a peach orchard. Aromas permeating the warm thick air with pungent ripe fruit.
And although it’s decadent, somehow it still leaves you feeling refreshed as most Viogniers are vinified to dryness. But if done poorly a Viognier can be flabby and flat and feel like you’ve decided to take up coconut oil pulling again.
Let these 10 great Viogniers be your next buy and these 5 facts about the grape be the talking points you share as you enjoy your summer walk in a glass.
1. The original home of Viognier is believed to be Croatia, however, it found its first true home in the Northern Rhone appellation of Condrieu, thanks to Romans settlers.
Some records even indicate that Viognier got the name from the nearby town of Vienne in France. Which is why we will start off our list of 10 great Viogniers to try with 2 from France.
Domaine Rostaing “La Bonnette” Condrieu, 2010 -$70.99 Aromas of ripe pears, apricot jam, and spring flowers.
Chateau Grillet Condrieu 2010 – $222.99 Pineapple, lime blossom, and hazelnut with a sea breeze like minerality.
2. The Northern Rhone region of France may have been Viognier’s first home, yet it almost went extinct there. In the 1960s, there were fewer than 25 hectares of Viognier planted in Condrieu.
Luckily, a group of tenacious California growers helped bring the variety back from the edge of extinction, so that today there are roughly 6,000 hectares worldwide.
The wines from California do tend to be higher in alcohol and have an even bigger body, but they are just as luscious and delightful.
Calera Viognier, 2012 $39.95 Papayas and mangoes mingle with jasmine and orange blossoms.
Mcmanis Viognier, 2011 $19.99 A fruit cocktail of peaches, pears, and apricots with great minerality from stainless steel aging.
3. Any Viognier grower is tenacious in my books because Viognier is notoriously difficult to grow. It is susceptible to disease.
It can have small yields (which means fewer grapes), and if picked too early the wine doesn’t have those irresistible tropical scents.
Then again, wait too long to pick, and the wine has no acidity, leaving you with that flabby oily texture. Don’t fret though, France and the US are not the only regions with the patience and skills to harness this finicky grape.
Check out these Italian and Australian Viogniers for a change of pace.
Michele Satta “Giovin Re” IGT Toscana, Italy 2013 $36.99 Exotic perfumes and incense matched with citrus fruits and apricots.
Yalumba “The Y Series” South Australia 2014 $16.95 Lychees, lemon, and ginger over a silky smooth texture.
4. Viognier may be great on its own, but it is also a team player. It is often blended with the red wine Shiraz/Syrah both to lend the wine more aromatics and to ironically to stabilize the red colour.
You can even see it listed side by side with Shiraz/Syrah on some labels from Australia and France. It is also a great contributor in white wine blends.
Partnering well with grapes like Chardonnay, or Marsanne and Rousanne (the Rhone Valley’s other main white grapes). Here are 2 great white wine blends with Viognier in the mix to try.
Tablas Creek “Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc” Paso Robles California $35 Passionfruit, honeysuckle and a flinty finish.
Tamaya Reserva Chardonnay-Viognier Limari Valley, Chile $15 Melons, orange marmelade, with apricots and jasmine.
5. Now Viognier may play well with other grapes in blends, but it sure can be difficult to pair with food because of its lack of acidity.
Here are some tips to make sure you enjoy both the Viognier and the food. Try it with mildly spicy Thai curries, or rich seafood dishes like chowder.
It can be a good partner for a mildly spicy pork dish, a foie gras terrine or even a Michelina salmon teriyaki if you are on a budget and would rather splurge on the wine than on the food. Here are my two favourite food friendly Viogniers.
Black Hills Viognier, VQA Okanagan Valley, BC 2013, $26.99 Lemon biscotti, orange blossom and peaches.
Santa Julia Viognier, Mendoza Argentina, 2012 $14.99 Persistant yet fresh flavours of apricots, and peaches.
Now get out there and start exploring these Viogniers, and the many more out there. We all have to do our part to ensure it doesn’t fade into extinction.
Lesley is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She first fell in love with wine while working in the vineyards of a winery in Hawk’s Bay New Zealand in 2007. In 2010, she became the Assistant Sommelier for the Ritz Carlton in the Grand Cayman.
She was responsible for maintaining a wine list with 182 labels at the resort’s Italian Al Fresco restaurant, Periwinkle.
In 2012, she moved on to become Director of Food and Beverage at the Marriott Hotel in Vancouver, where she overhauled the wine list and hosted wine tastings and dinners with industry luminaries for guests.
In 2013, she returned to her home in Prince Edward Island as the Sommelier for the Murphy Group of Restaurants, a collection of six establishments, with her main focus on the flagship Sim’s Oyster Bar and Steakhouse.
In 2015, she joined the knowledgable staff at Willow Park Wine & Spirits as a Wine Expert, it is Canada’s largest privately owned store, and she spends her time savouring the wide selection of wines and scotches. She has also joined Iron Chef winner Michael Noble in his latest restaurant venture The Nash.
She spends her very little down time blind tasting and studying for the advanced level Sommelier exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers … yes, just like in the movie Somm.