About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Viognier: The alternative to Chardonnay

Viognier (vee-oh-NAY’) is a very old grape whose origins are somewhat obscure. It is generally thought that the Romans brought the grape to the Rhone valley of France and they may have been exposed to it by the Greeks. Even the derivation of its name has multiple and uncertain backgrounds. The Wine Guy tends to favor the speculation that the name comes from the Roman pronunciation of Via Gehennaae (“road to hell”) which may allude to the difficulty in growing and properly ripening this white varietal.

Regardless, Viognier produces a highly aromatic, very versatile wine capable of many manifestations that range from citrus and mineral in content to highly floral and fruity. It is capable of cripsness and can also be subtly oily and creamy. Not unlike the more ubiquitous Chardonnay, it can respond well to malo-latic fermentation and to some ageing on oak, producing a variety of styles. Its aromatic expressions are usually very floral and fruity, almost always with notes of apricot and orange jasmine. However, its characteristic aromatics often flatten out with prolonged bottle ageing, so it is best to consume this wine when young. Even at that, you can sometimes find excellent Condrieu comprised of 100% Viognier that has aged well. It can range in body styles and is capable of fairly high alcohol content for a white wine, typically ranging above 12.5%.

Unlike Chardonnay, Viognier has great co-pigmentation capabilities. It blends well with red wine, stabilizing the coloring without creating a rose’ style. Its characteristic low acidity often produces a smoothing finish when blended with spicier red wines such as Syrah. In the Rhone valley, winemakers will often blend Viognier with other white varietals (typically Rousanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc) to produce crisp, smooth and palate-pleasing wines.

Viognier was virtually exclusive to the Rhone Valley well into the early 20th century and very nearly became extinct after World War I. As late as the 1980’s there was thought to be less than 100 acres of this grape world wide in recognized commercial production. It has now found more favor and is regularly grown in Australia, the United States, Canada, South Africa and even Japan. Its best expressions appear to be from the Rhone Valley in France, Eden Valley in Australia, Edna Valley in California and the Rappahannock Valley in Virginia.

Viognier is a great food-pairing white wine. Its capabilities with a variety of cheeses are not to be underestimated. It can be a great compliment to Asian fare and it is a very viable alternative to Chardonnay as a great multi-purpose white wine.

The Wine Guy can easily recommend two examples of good values in Viognier he has enjoyed in the past: Yalumba’s Eden Valley Organic Viognier and Guigal’s Cotes du Rhone Blanc.

If you enjoy great white wine, explore the possibilities that await you with a good Viognier.


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