eWine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
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. 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 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 Oriental 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 like Roussanne and Marsanne. In some 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 like 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.