A RISING star on wine lists in trendy bars and restaurants, viognier is spreading its vines from the grape’s spiritual home in Condrieu, northern Rhone, to become the darling of vignerons in the New World.
Hailed as the Rhone’s finest white wine, this modish grape is produced in tiny amounts and commands designer price tags.
But thanks to its beguiling, heady aromas and apricot flavours, a new generation of winemakers are emulating this rich white and banking on its seductive appeal.
South of the River Rhone, the cool hillsides of Montagne Noire in the sunny Languedoc produce effortlessly drinkable examples such as Marquis de Pennautier Viognier, Vin de Pays D’Oc 2009 (£7.99, Majestic). Perfumed with textbook scents of ripe peach and apricot balanced by refreshing acidity, it’s terrific with a warm leaf salad and crabcakes.
Wine lovers who judge a bottle by the label will be delighted with an angel’s share of Les Anges de Malassan, Viognier 2009 (£9.49, www.laithwaites.co.uk) from the medieval city of Carcassonne, in the heart of the Languedoc.
Really lovely, it’s a luscious mouthful of fresh passion fruit with hints of elderflower and a honeyed finish.
Warmer climate viognier can produce sweeter versions, but this Australian beauty manages to maintain good acidity. Try Tallarook Viognier 2008 (£6.99, www.findwine.co.uk), Victoria. Racy with lively citrus fruit, it’s a mouth-watering medley of peaches, pears and apricot with a crisp finish.
Chile likes to try its hand at most grapes and this fragrant offering from the Limari Valley in the arid north is a fruity example of how blue skies and an abundance of sunshine can influence viognier. Try Limari Valley Viognier 2010 (£9.99, www.virginwines.co.uk). Fresh with elegant stone fruit flavours and a streak of minerality, it’s a perfect choice with grilled fish.
Famed for its reds, Argentina always manages to bring some good whites to the table and this keenly priced Trivento Viognier 2010, Mendoza (£6.99, Waitrose) ticks all the right flavour boxes. Blossomy with classic peach fruit and honeysuckle on the finish with well-balanced acidity, enjoy this bright white with seafood or chicken.
For armchair travellers, South Africa’s Western Cape produces all our favourite international styles, including viognier. Try the more restrained Pax Verbatim Rockwater Fountain, Viognier 2009 (£12.99, www.virginwines.co.uk) from Stellenbosch. A symphony of white peach, dried apricot and honey blossom with a subtle finish, it’s a triumph with scallops or langoustine.
For a casual mid-week pleaser with essential floral high notes, try the more weighty Lyngrove Viognier 2009 (£6.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) from the same region – passion fruit flavours mingle with peaches and cream and a hint of white flowers.