This week we’ll continue our exploration of the world of wine with a look at a grape that is old and new at the same time, a great alternative for those of us who enjoy spicy dishes.
Try a new wine this week! Bruce
The next time you’re thinking white wine, but want to try something new, consider a Viognier. Like chardonnay it’s dry and food friendly. But because of its naturally low acidity, it’s often made in a softly dry style, with rich texture and flavors of apricot and honeysuckle that make it a good accompaniment and oftentimes better than chardonnay to spicy dishes. Viognier can be a fine match for Oriental recipes, 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 for instance Chateau Grillet, France’s smallest appellation, or nearby Condrieu, and is even blended in small amounts with syrah in Cote-Rotie. It may seem an unusual practice to blend white wine with red, but Viognier is one white wine with enough character to contribute to the red wine rather than dilute it. Today Viognier is grown around the world, from California to Washington to Australia.
Viognier can be harder to grow than other grape varieties. It’s a shy bearer, for one thing. And it has a small window of ripeness for picking. It’s softer in acid (meaning less tartness), so it can easily become overripe, yielding a wine too high in alcohol and too low in flavor.
On the other hand it tends to suffer less from various maladies like mold and mildew when grown in drier climates. And fortunately for grape growers it’s drought tolerant.
One good example that is available in Arkansas is RiverAerie, made by veteran winemaker Ron Bunnell, formerly of Chateau Ste. Michelle. The grapes come from a vineyard near the Columbia River, where the hot sunny days, dry climate and cool nights are reminiscent of Viognier’s native Mediterranean home. RiverAerie Viognier sells in the $15-$20 price range.