It wasn’t until I’d polished of my bottle of Route Du Sud Viognier that I thought, “Damn, I should really drink more of this stuff.” My next thought was “Damn! Everyone should drink more of this stuff!” I’m of course referring to the varietal known as Viognier, a French grape most notably found in the Rhone wines produced in the small appellation of Condrieu. While the Route Du Sud was nothing to write home about, but it reminded me just how much potential Viognier has, and why white wine fans should [re]acquaint themselves with this grape.
Obviously, the first thing you’re probably wondering (if you haven’t been exposed to much Viognier before) is what exactly this wine tastes like. Put simply, it’s like a bold Chardonnay for people who demand a bit more out of their bold Chardonnay’s. Rather than simple, buttery notes of an over-oaked Chard, a good Viognier has the potential to evoke unique and powerful floral and spice aromas.
Viognier is a notoriously fickle grape, and difficult to grow. It has to be picked at its peak ripeness, as slightly too early or slightly too late will affect its famous nose. Additionally, most people opt to consume it quite young (under three years) as the nose gets flat afterwards, and the taste crisping towards a Chablis. On top of this, at various times in history Viognier has been almost wiped out by blight, or destroyed by war. At one point there was only about 30 acres of Viognier left in France — thankfully it has recovered significantly since.
The best part of Viognier is how interesting it is after a slew of other whites. I found myself on a carousel of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and I decided to hop off with a Viognier. It’s a powerful white, with a hell of a personality. Generally speaking, they are heavy with floral perfume, low in acid and pack a nice spicy kick. It’s not always as drinkable as an ice gold Pinot Grigio, but if you don’t mind thinking about you drink a bit, than Viognier is worth a shot.
The point of this post is simple — go try a Viognier if you haven’t recently. Even though the bottle I polished of wasn’t terrific wine, the experience of something mercifully different was worth it. I’m going to go track down some examples and hopefully have a recommendation in the future. In the meantime, seek some Viognier samples out yourself — and sip them slow.