This week we’ll discuss a great white wine for entertaining your wine-loving friends, something cool to bring out when you want to serve something different, but not too different …
And I’m working on the September/October wine schedule, when I’ll be out of the country for a couple of weeks. I’m taking another group on my favorite northern Italian itinerary and spending a little time working on a new itinerary for the future.
Try a new wine this week!
(pronounced VEE on YAY)
The next time you’re thinking white wine but want to try something new, consider a Viognier. Like many new things, it’s actually being rediscovered. Similar to chardonnay, it’s dry and food friendly, but because of its naturally low acidity, it’s often made in a softly dry style with a rich texture and flavors and scents of apricot and honeysuckle that make it a good accompaniment — oftentimes better than chardonnay — to spicy dishes. Viognier can be a fine match for Asian recipes or even curry. It can also pair well with fruit salsas atop grilled fish or chicken.
Viognier’s native home is the northern Rhone valley in southeastern France where it’s bottled on its own — as at Chateau Grillet or nearby Condrieu — or blended with other white grapes such as Roussanne and Marsanne. In many places it’s even blended in small amounts with syrah. That may seem an unusual practice, blending white wine with red, but Viognier is one white wine with enough character to contribute to a red wine rather than dilute it. Today, Viognier is grown around the world, from California to Washington to Australia and beyond.
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 such as mold and mildew when grown in drier climates. And, fortunately for grape growers, it’s drought tolerant. Like many things in the world of wine, you have to love it to do it.
One good example that is available in Arkansas is from Del Rio Vineyards along southern Oregon’s Rogue River, where the hot, sunny days, cool nights and a dry climate are reminiscent of Viognier’s native Mediterranean home. Del Rio Viognier sells in the $15-$20 price range.