Jan 032012

Happy new year all. I hope you enjoyed your holiday season, and drank some good wine. My wife and I are big red drinkers, but we had fun with the white Viognier grape last week.

The catalyst for this was my Mom. She has been enjoying 2007 Bonterra Voignier as a nice change from Chardonnay since discovering the wine this fall. We had some last week with a holiday lunch.

The wine has a very juicy, melon-y nose with some peach as well on the palate. It’s light bodied, with good acidity keeping the fruit in balance. There’s a rather sharp tartness on the finish. The wine has small amounts of three other grapes — Marsanne, Roussane and Muscat. It’s a nice wine, especially at around $17.

I knew that the Viognier varietal was behind some of the well known white Rhones from France, and suggested a California/France taste off. Unfortunately for me, the only French Viognier I could find in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut was a 2007 Guigal Condrieu at a cost of $50. That’s not a price point I normally go for without knowing exactly what the wine will be like. But we’ve had a lot of good wine from Guigal and I needed a French Viognier, so home it came.

This wine also had lots of fruit on the nose, also dominated by melon. It was a bit darker wine, more straw in color. There were other flavors blending smoothly on the palate, with peach and apricot as well. The Condrieu was smoother, there was no sudden tartness on the finish, the wine was smoother and a bit rounder. For me it was the perfect aperitif, despite the relatively high alcohol content.

The Condrieu was clearly the more polished wine, but was it worth 3x the price? Our family panel said no, when adding value to the question the Bonterra took the contest. Once we got home, Gabriele and I found a more price appropriate French candidate, the 2010 J.V. Fleury Cotes du Rhone. We found this for $14 at Total Wine in Alexandria.

This wine had a lot of grass as well as fruit on the nose. It had good acidity that kept it very dry, and I got some earthiness and spice underneath the fruit. The wine finished with a sudden tartness, much like the Bonterra. A lot going on and a very nice wine for the price.

So give a Viognier next time you want a different white wine. But the operative word here is fun. That’s what wine should be about. It’s not about memorization of varietals or regions, or worrying about what you should like. It’s about learning more about what you do like, and branching out once in a while to try new things.

Put that on your list for 2012, and enjoy!

  4 Responses to “Fun with Viognier”

  1. I never really had Viognier until moving to VA. Delaplane Cellars makes two excellent Viogniers which are bottled according to the vineyard: Honah Lee and Maggie Lee. Honah is dryer while the Maggie is slightly sweet. Both with excellent fruit and mouthfeel…and that’s coming from a red drinker. Give them a try!

  2. I am going to total wine to pick some up – thanks for the recommendation, I’m always looking for a new white!

  3. Thank you for highlighting this grape! May I recommend one from Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards in Washington State? This one has gotten 3 gold medals and received many accolades and is always a tasting room favorite. It is available for $18 with direct to consumer shipping available to many states : http://wineshop.hardrow.com/shameless-hussy-viognier-p9.aspx . I am the owner and winemaker.

  4. Thanks for the post on Viognier, it’s a varietal that has not received its due attention and I think a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, especially in the summer months as its generally crisp and citrus(y). Sorry for the shameless plug but our Viognier at Monte De Oro Winery (Temecula, CA) has come out exceptionally well, I hope you might give it a try as well.

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