I think just as we search out new tastes and flavors in food we crave the same in wines. If you are looking to fall in love with another grape, have I got the grape for you. It’s the soft, perfumed, uplifting, savory, creamy and rich viognier. This is a grape, I like to say, that if you are one to stop and smell the flowers, then viognier will make you swoon.
It’s a grape we are lucky to have in the wine world. Just a decade ago few wine enthusiasts had ever even heard of the grape much less tasted the wine. Around 1965, Condrieu, a tiny Rhone appellation in Southern France, may have single-handedly kept viognier alive. Some say it was down to a mere 20 acres of barely thriving viognier vines. A single vintage was producing a minuscule amount of wine.
Josh Jensen of Calera Wine Co. in California decided this was a great grape to explore, and planted a few vines in his mountain vineyard. George Duboeuf, the “king of Beaujolais,” was also planting them in France, and many more growers around the world followed. By the mid-1990s not only was this grape being planted all around the world but wine consumers were falling in love.
There are always exceptions, but as a general rule, this grape is at its best when young and fresh. When describing the taste of this wine you can think of every aromatic fruit and flower you can and then throw them in a wine glass. It can have aromas of apricots, peaches, spice, honeysuckle and jasmine. Those who don’t care for the high acidity of grapes such as sauvignon blanc will enjoy the low acidity captured when growers pick the viognier early.
When it comes to matching viognier with food, I think it is best enjoyed as an aperitif. This allows you to revel in its intoxicating perfume. But that’s not to say it doesn’t pair well with food. It’s a good match with mildly spicy dishes, chicken with cream, and perfect with rich-tasting seafood such as lobster.
To not let you down, I tasted quite a few voigniers to compile this week’s recommendations. The ones listed showcase the best in all price ranges for the aroma and taste of this grape. Some have been blended with a small number of other grapes, yet still express the lead traits of viognier.
- 2015 White Knight Viognier, California (about $12 retail)
- 2015 La Playa Viognier Chardonnay, Chile (about $10 retail)
- 2013 Ferraton Pere & Fils Condrieu Les Mandouls, France (about $60 retail)
- 2014 Treana Blanc, California (about $28 retail)
- 2014 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Viognier, France (about $20 retail)