We begin this new month, and this new summer season, with a wine that was once expected to possibly replace chardonnay as the country’s most popular white wine. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s still good, especially with spicy foods. Our much-loved-by-all, official e-Wine staff member John now has an email newsletter for beer lovers. It is called The Official Size and Weight E-Beer E-News E-Mail. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taste something good this week!
It’s pronounced “vee on yay”, it’s from the south of France, and a few years ago this white wine grape variety was picked by many (please excuse the small pun) to break chardonnay’s stranglehold on wine lists.
Things didn’t work out exactly that way (though thankfully we now see many alternatives to chardonnay), mainly because viognier grown in California tended to be expensive at that time. Thankfully that situation has evolved.
Viognier is more difficult to grow than some other grape varieties. It’s a shy bearer, for one thing. But, it tends to suffer less from various maladies like mold and mildew when grown in drier climates. Fortunately it’s drought tolerant and it has a small window of ripeness for picking. It’s soft in acid, so it can easily become overripe, yielding a wine too high in alcohol and too low in flavor. But when it’s good it’s very good, with a rich texture and flavors of apricot and honeysuckle. It’s most often made in a dry style.
That “softly dry” style makes it a good accompaniment—better than chardonnay—to spicy Oriental dishes or even curry. It can also pair well with fruit salsas atop grilled fish or chicken. Its native home is the northern Rhone valley in southeastern France, where it’s bottled on its own (especially Chateau Grillet, France’s smallest appellation), or Condrieu, or even blended in small amounts with syrah in Cote-Rotie. It’s also successful in Australia- Yalumba makes a good one. One I like a lot is Clay Station, from the Lodi appellation east of San Francisco. It has the depth and richness of chardonnay, with complexity of flavor and a clean style, very well made for its modest retail price of $10-$15.
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