Viognier: The resurgent grape

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Grapevine, Al Bégin

First, you need to learn how to pronounce the name. It is pronounced Vee-oh-nyay.

The Resurgent Truro Daily News Wine Tasting Panel recently tasted the 2012 Alvi’s Drift Viognier. It is from Worcester, South Africa. This wine, made with 100 per cent Viognier grapes, received the highest score of any wine reviewed by the Grapevine’s tasting panels to date. SUBMITTED PHOTO

“It’s fun to drink a Vee-oh-nyay

  It’s fun to drink a Vee-oh-nyay

  It has everything wine drinkers enjoy

  It will give us all lots of joy…”

 

            - with apologies to the band The Village People

 

What is the Viognier grape?

 

First, you need to learn how to pronounce the name. It is pronounced Vee-oh-nyay. You may also see some bottles that refer to it as Viogne, Vionnier, or Galopine.

 

Recent DNA testing has shown a genetic relationship between the Viognier grape and the Nebbiolo grape.

 

Viognier is a difficult grape to grow that requires a long, warm (but not too hot) growing season. It is a difficult grape for winemakers to properly ferment. While you can commence a full harvest on most grape vines after four years, it is said that Viognier vines take 10 years to start to produce nice fruit. It also produces a low yield compared to other grape vines.

 

For all of these reasons, the Viognier was nearing extinction. In 1965 there were only eight hectares of the Viognier grape remaining in the whole world. In the 1980s Californian and Australian wineries started the grape’s expansion and today the Viognier grape is grown in Ontario, Virginia, Lebanon, Australia, Washington, Texas (seriously!), California, France, South America, South Africa and New Zealand. 

 

Today, there are more than 1,000 acres of Viognier growing in the United States, and it is believed to be the most planted white Rhone varietal in the United States.

 

The Viognier grape is quite aromatic, but not as aromatic as the Muscat grape that we have previously discussed. Jancis Robinson, noted wine writer, refers to the Viognier grape as “the hedonist’s white grape variety” due to its balance of taste and aroma.

 

The Viognier wine is meant to be drunk fairly young. It is not known to age well with lengthy cellaring.

 

Some winemakers are now blending the Viognier grape with red grapes, usually with Syrah. This primarily serves to add some aroma to the wine, but it will also affect the colour.

 

We like to pair Viognier wine with chicken dishes, or with slightly spicy foods. Viognier also pairs well with light seafoods.

 

 

Book recommendation

 

The book How to Love Wine by Eric Asimov (ISBN 978-0-06-180252-2) is a very pleasant read. Asimov is the chief, and only, wine reviewer for the New York Times. He has a light-hearted attitude towards enjoying and reviewing wines. He is not big on the current wine-scoring scales, but prefers to drink the wines that he enjoys.

 

The book follows his journey to being the wine critic for the paper, as well as his growing love for wine.

 

His humorous writing style serves as an inspiration for my Grapevine column.

 

Wine pairings for Easter weekend

 

There are three food items that you may want to pair with wine for Easter weekend.  Of course, there will be chocolate and ham. And, if you are not pleased with your chocolate haul, you may want to know what you should pair with a freshly baked rabbit.

 

To pair with chocolate, you should consider the Grinder Pinotage that we reviewed back in the June 15, 2013 article.  This is a wonderful wine that has hints of chocolate and coffee in the taste, and it will pair very well with chocolate.

 

Ham is meat that can pair with either red or white wine. There are many ways to prepare a ham and for the purpose of this article we will consider a baked ham. White wines that would pair well with a baked ham would be a Muscat or a Chardonnay. These wines would complement the slight spiciness that you will get with a ham. 

 

Red wines to pair with a baked ham should be lighter-bodied wines such as a Beaujolais or a Pinot Noir. These styles of reds will not overpower the ham.

 

Assuming that you do end up making a rabbit stew, a good wine pairing for this would be a wine that pairs well with game and can hold its own against the stew flavours. A nice Bordeaux or a Cabernet Sauvignon would work.

 

For a white wine to pair with rabbit stew, a Viognier would work nicely.

 

Of course, a bubbly can pair with anything, and it would be in keeping with the weekend celebration.

 

 

Wine review

 

The Resurgent Truro Daily News Wine Tasting Panel recently tasted the 2012 Alvi’s Drift Viognier. It is from Worcester, South Africa. It is available from your local NSLC for only $13.99, proving that you do not need to spend a heap of money to get a very good bottle of wine.

 

It is made from 100 per cent Viognier grapes.

 

The bottle catches your attention with the “medals” that adorn the top of the label. And, as you will note from our review, those medals are well deserved.

 

The wine has a nose of straw, honey and grass. 

 

It tastes of honey, honeydew melon, with a pleasant lemon rind tartness. This wine has a silky, creamy fullness.

 

The wine has a very nice finish, making you wonder why you didn’t get a second bottle while you were at the liquor store.

 

On average, it takes 630 grapes to produce one glass of wine. Worthy of its medals, this bottle of wine rates 561 out of 630 grapes. This would be the highest score we have given to any of our Grapevine reviewed wines to date.

 

Al Bégin is the chief bottle recycler for the Resurgent Truro Daily News Wine Tasting Panel, and you can send your wine questions, gifts, or recommendations, to him at tdngrapevine@gmail.com.

 

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Recent comments

  • Linley Schultz
    April 19, 2014 - 05:10

    Thanks for the high praise of our viognier. We have concentrated on viognier for the last few years and believe we can make this style consistently year after year. A great wine at an affordable price. Can you please send me a PDF of this article for our records. Many thanks, Linley Schultz MD Alvi's Drift.

    • Al Bégin
      April 20, 2014 - 16:17

      Linley, Thanks for your comments. I have sent an email to what I believe your Alvi's Drift email would me. Al Bégin