Viognier

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White WineWine experts usually exhort their readers to branch out and try new styles. Usually this is an effort to move people out of their cabernet and chardonnay ruts. Often times the recommendation for chardonnay drinkers is to try viognier. While I definitely agree with this advice, the information in this article on the varietal makes me wonder if this is because California wine makers are not getting the most out of this wonderful grape.

From the article:

Viognier can be an extremely alluring grape. In France’s Condrieu appellation, in the northern Rhone, it can produce a glorious wine with an intoxicating fragrance, flavors of white peach, honeysuckle and mineral, and a silky, supple texture.

Why, then, are so many of the viogniers from California so clumsy? Some display the heat of high alcohol. Others are noticeably sweet. Some wines are both hot and sweet. Then there are the examples that taste more like chardonnay, with heavy-handed use of oak and the buttery flavor that comes from malolactic fermentation.

Viognier, while one of my favorite wines, is hard to pin down. I have enjoyed excellent subtle glasses of it, as well as great powerful ones, and everything in between. I have also had very flabby examples that remind me of the worst of California chardonnays.

Maybe the way we think of viognier needs revisited. If consumer expectations change, maybe it will be treated properly and it can become the important varietal it deserves to be.

  • http://www.miamihawktalk.com Chuck

    Joe–I recommend you check out Virginia viognier. I’ve especially enjoyed viognier from White Hall Vineyards in Crozet, VA, a town about 10 miles outside of Charlottesville. It’s my understanding that the Monticello AVA, for whatever reason, is well-suited to the grape, and area wineries do a good job with it.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Joe Power

    Thanks for the tip, Chuck. I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on some that down here.

  • Papa Lou

    I find that viogniers are an extremely mixed bag, and as such, I find myself shying away from them. The good viogniers I’ve tasted were literally a transcendental experience. But they’ve been outnumbered three or four to one by viogniers that taste like an overwhelming floral perfume.

    I’d drink them a lot more often if I felt like it was less of a roll of the dice to get a decent one.

  • http://www.miamihawktalk.com Chuck

    Joe–I recommend you check out Virginia viognier. I’ve especially enjoyed viognier from White Hall Vineyards in Crozet, VA, a town about 10 miles outside of Charlottesville. It’s my understanding that the Monticello AVA, for whatever reason, is well-suited to the grape, and area wineries do a good job with it.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Joe Power

    Thanks for the tip, Chuck. I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on some that down here.

  • Papa Lou

    I find that viogniers are an extremely mixed bag, and as such, I find myself shying away from them. The good viogniers I’ve tasted were literally a transcendental experience. But they’ve been outnumbered three or four to one by viogniers that taste like an overwhelming floral perfume.

    I’d drink them a lot more often if I felt like it was less of a roll of the dice to get a decent one.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Joe Power

    I hear you, Papa Lou. Then again, what varietal isn’t a mixed bag in some way? For me, part of the fun is seeking out the wines that I like then tasting them again and again. But you’re right, viognier seems to have more extreme swings in taste. Maybe that is why is makes such fascinating wine, because it is so hard to define exactly what it should taste like. I suggest we all do a lot more research.

  • http://www.anotherwineblog.com Joe Power

    I hear you, Papa Lou. Then again, what varietal isn’t a mixed bag in some way? For me, part of the fun is seeking out the wines that I like then tasting them again and again. But you’re right, viognier seems to have more extreme swings in taste. Maybe that is why is makes such fascinating wine, because it is so hard to define exactly what it should taste like. I suggest we all do a lot more research.