Hi to All!
Now that warm weather is here (hopefully to stay for a while), I thought an educational email on Viognier was in order. It’s really interesting stuff & we carry a few different kinds & also some varietals that are very similar. Check out this article and if you’re interested, come see us! Hope the rest of the week is as beautiful as it is today.
Viognier seemed literally an endangered variety only a few years ago, but seems to be recovering worldwide in both popularity and acreage. Less than 35 acres remained planted in all of France, its homeland, in the late 1960s. Its newest realm, California, has 2,001 acres as of 2002 (although a considerable portion is not yet mature enough to bear a commercial crop) and there are also relatively new plantings in Australia and Brazil, as well as other U.S. plantings in Colorado, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
The major drawback of the viognier grape is that it is a very shy producer and somewhat difficult to grow. Although drought tolerant, it is easily infected with powdery mildew in damp conditions or humid climates. Like many other varietals, viognier must be harvested at its peak of maturity in order to display its unique aroma and flavor character. The grape’s tendency to develop high sugar but low acid can result in wines with neutral, merely vinous flavors and high alcohol. These cultivation problems and producer desires to capitalize on the grape’s somewhat rarity combine to make many Viognier wines relatively expensive.
Viognier is the only grape used for the Northern RhÃ´ne appellations Condrieu and ChÃ¢teau-Grillet (one of France’s smallest appellation contrÃ´lÃ©e, with less than ten acres and only one owner). Viognier is also sometimes used to add fragrance and to soften and lighten the syrah in CÃ´te Rotie. Plantings of viognier in France have expanded in recent years from the RhÃ´ne (1830 acres), to the Languedoc (3440 ac.) to smaller plantings in Roussillon (212 ac.) and Provence (272 ac.).
Probably the main attraction of Viognier is its potentially powerful, rich, and complex aroma that often seems like overripe apricots mixed with orange blossoms or acacia. With as distinctive and sweet an aroma-flavor profile as GewÃ¼rztraminer, Viognier is nevertheless usually made in a dry style and seems to appeal more to the typical Chardonnay drinker. The distinctive Viognier perfume holds up even when blended with a large portion of other grapes. The fruit usually has very deep color, but is somewhat low in acidity. As California wineries experiment with Viognier-Chardonnays, Viognier-Chenin Blancs, and Viognier-Colombards, this may be the grape’s ultimate destiny, as a blender.
Both Chardonnay and Viognier share tropical fruit flavors and a creamy mouthfeel. Even with little or no wood aging, Viognier can be as full-bodied as an oaky Chardonnay, but has much more distinctive fruit character. It also has a typically deep golden color, as well as rich and intense flavor.
|Floral: orange blossom, acacia, violet, honey||Malolactic: butter, cream|
|Fruit: apricot, mango, pineapple, guava, kiwi, tangerine||Oak (light): vanilla, sweet wood|
|Spice: anise, mint||Oak (heavy): oak, smoke, toast|
|Herbal: mown hay, tobacco|
VIOGNIER TASTING NOTES 1 €¢ 2Viognier alcohol easily gets out-of-hand, so some vintners leave a touch of residual sugar to mask the heat. The combination of heady aromas and sweet-hot flavors may be overbearing to some palates. Even for those who favor Viognier’s brash personality, a little can go a long way and a single glass may satiate one’s wine thirst. There are also occasional late-harvest and dessert versions made that can be as headily-intriguing as the finest Sauternes.
Because the prime appeal of Viognier is its fresh and striking aroma, it is a wine that should be consumed young in most instances. The exception is ChÃ¢teau Grillet, where the grapes are harvested early and the wine kept in oak for several months prior to bottling; this wine has a reputation for aging up to two decades.
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