Wine 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.