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Sunday, 4 April 2021

Around The World in Viognier

Been around the world and I, I, I
I can't find my baby

- Lisa Stansfield, 1989


Not that long ago, you would be hard pushed to find a Viognier; it had become almost extinct by the 1960s and was mostly limited to some rarefied - and pricey - whites in the northern Rhône.

Condrieu is its spiritual home, but this low-yielding, sensitive but warmth-loving grape has been around the world making a comeback and now even has its own day, International Viognier Day, on 30th April 2021.

If you have yet to get to know her, expect ginger, stone fruit, white peaches, apricots, white pepper and exotic star anise character from Viognier. She is is a low acid wine, full-bodied like Chardonnay but with a more aromatic character.

Helena Nicklin describes Viognier as a tropical Sun Goddess.

Here are five Viogniers from around the world with tasting notes and food matching suggestions from their producers.

Australia

Samuel’s Collection Eden Valley Viognier 2017, (£17.99 Taurus Wines, winedirect.co.uk, vinvm.co.uk, auswineonline.co.uk, Yorke Vines, Liquorice Wines, Flagship Wines)

Yalumba is one of the most influential producers and world leaders of Viognier. In 1980, when other Barossa wineries were planting Chardonnay, Yalumba planted the first significant plantings of Viognier in Australia, on the elevated slopes of the Eden Valley. This wine honours Yalumba’s founder Samuel Smith. It is spicy, with stone fruit characters, richness and softness.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of grapes from six vineyards, 60% barrel fermented in old hogsheads and the rest in stainless steel. The juice passively interacts with air creating a perfect environment for the natural yeast to do their job before maturing on the lees for 10 months. Over time, the wine will continue to develop in the bottle where it will develop honey flavours and toasty complexity.

The richness and the spice in the Viognier bring out flavours and textures in food, and this one pairs particularly well with spicy and rich dishes. Try with a wild mushroom and thyme risotto.

Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2020, (£9.49 Majestic, Asda, Morrison’s, The Co-op)

When Louisa Rose, joined Yalumba in 1992, she took the variety under her wing. All Yalumba Viogniers are fermented using wild yeasts which come in with the grapes when they are picked. The wild yeasts add extra character and complexity to the wines.

A pure expression of the variety, Yalumba Y Series Viognier is made with as little intervention as possible and a commitment to ‘getting it right’ in the vineyard and first stages of the winemaking process.

A delicious young wine to enjoy with food to show its true credentials; an incredible food wine pairing particularly well with spicy and rich dishes such as a Sri Lankan vegetable or chicken curry.

France

Louis Latour Ardèche Viognier 2018, (around £15 from Dickens House Wine Emporium, Il Vino, Worsley Wines, winedirect.co.uk)

A beautifully crafted Viognier from Louis Latour who produce fine Burgundian wines. In the 80’s they stepped outside their traditional wine making region and after great success with Chardonnay in the Ardèche, in 2007, they began to make wines with Viognier, a grape that has long been grown in the region.

The Viognier grapes are planted on steeper hillsides than the Chardonnay and are hand-picked and vinified at Louis Latour's modern winery on the outskirts of the village of Alba-la-Romaine.

30% aged in French oak barrels from Latour’s cooperage in Beaune, giving the wine a roundness and slightly spicy edge. The remaining 70% is matured entirely in stainless steel.

The resulting wine is elegant offering notes of apricot, honey and hints of fresh almonds and is a joy as an aperitif or alongside Duck terrine with chestnuts or with a simple plate of charcuterie.

Guigal Côtes du Rhône White 2019, (£12-£14.75, Tesco, North & South Wines, Clifton Cellars, Amps Fine Wines, Amazon)

Guigal is one of the most famous Rhône producers, where white wine production accounts for just 6%, yet 25% of all Guigal’s wine production is white wines.

Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc is a blend of 60% Viognier (unusually high for white Côtes du Rhône) with Roussane, Marsanne and others to make this the most captivating Rhône white. Guigal source the best grapes from vineyards in the Southern Rhône and the average vine age is 25 years old.

The dominant presence of Viognier in this wine gives it a wonderful density and  freshness marked with peachy fruit and blossomy honey. Drink as an aperitif, with starters lightly spiced or curried dishes.

Chile

Viu Manent Secret Viognier  2018 (around £14, Great Grog, Chester Wine and Beer, Albury Wine Store, La Zouch, The Wine Chambers, Flagship Wines)

The predominant grape in this wine is Viognier. The ‘secret’ is that up to 15% of the blend in this range are ‘other varieties’ which can vary each year depending on weather conditions. The grapes for the Viu Manent Secret Viognier 2018 come from the family-owned San Carlos vineyard in Colchagua valley, where the average age of the vines is 17 years.

Here the warm days, cool nights and moderating breezes from the Andes and the Pacific Ocean provide perfect conditions. The grapes are hand-picked, whole bunch pressed, fermented with native natural yeasts and vinified in stainless steel with no oak, resulting a wine that is fresh and complex with delicious notes of pineapple, white peach, pear and subtle floral notes.

It’s super-versatile when it comes to pairing with different dishes, enjoy it with all manner of stews, turkey, grilled chicken, sweet and sour chicken, fish, such as salmon or tuna or a seafood risotto.

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