The Story of Viognier
Wed, 25 November 2015
Each year here in the Clare Valley we find ourselves falling further in love with a particular white varietal of extraordinary character and versatility – Viognier. It’s certainly not one of the better-known whites, having gone under the radar for a number of years. Yet we are increasingly impressed with the strength of character exhibited by Viognier, both as a single varietal and as the key member of blends. So much so in fact, that we’ve recently crafted the perfect stand-alone Viognier for you and your summer guests to enjoy. Here’s a little about our growing love affair with this intriguing white.
A quiet survivor
Like many vines throughout Europe, the aromatic Viognier was introduced to southern climes by the Romans, spending many a decade flourishing in Dalmatia (now Croatia) before settling in the Rhone Valley. It has to be said that Viognier is truly the original survivor of grape varieties. At one time in the mid-20th century, the varietal dwindled to just a few bare hectares of flinty granite around Condrieu in France. The story goes that only a handful of discerning wine lovers knew of these vines, keeping the secret delights of this white wine firmly under wraps. Yet the story was never meant to end there. Rediscovering the unique beauty and character of this white grape, vignerons the world over embraced the possibilities of the distinguished aromatic wine and the love of Viognier was reignited. Viognier is a beautifully structured varietal, with a remarkable array of both stand-alone and blend-perfecting characteristics.
We are so pleased that we decided to plant our own Viognier vines here in the St Andrews vineyard back in 2004. Our distinctive climate and soil minerality have provided this versatile grape with a gorgeous new Clare Valley home – presenting exciting opportunities for our innovative winemakers to explore.
Best friend of the blend
From the earliest days of wine creation, the Viognier grape became well known both for its stand-alone varietal prowess and its superior blending capability. In terms of the latter, the aromatic white exhibited a unique ability to stabilise the colouration of reds across time. The Viognier grape also lends a delightful depth to the mid palate, assisting those companion grapes which tend towards a leaner flavour profile. Medium-bodied, finely oaked and quintessentially floral on the nose, Viognier has become a vital contributor to the structure and length in many notable blends. Traditionally, it partners beautifully with its Rhone cousins Marsanne and Roussane, while also regularly lending colouration integrity to the noble red Shiraz. Here at Taylors Wines for example, we’ve been delighted to incorporate subtle aspects of the Viognier during Shiraz vinification, adding the best elements of colour stabilisation to the mighty red.
Commanding solo artist
But Viognier certainly cannot be described as a ‘bridesmaid’ varietal, simply living in the shadows of other grape components. Upon pouring this pale straw-coloured drop, almost nothing can compare with the delicious floral aromatics released by Viognier. Orange blossom, sweet spice and apricots generously greet the nose, with lime, honeysuckle and toasty oak notes also making regular welcome appearances. On the palate, this white presents with a beautiful complexity and reassuring depth, exhibiting a luscious mouthfeel to round out proceedings. Due to the incomparable quality of the French oak used in the creation of our 2014 TWP Viognier, a subtle yet enduring finish is revealed – perhaps even a little surprising in such a young and supple white. In many ways, the delicious contradictions of Viognier provided the perfect challenge for The Winemakers Project (TWP), where Taylors winemakers have the opportunity to ‘play’ judiciously with the best of our small-parcel fruit selections. The results for our first single varietal Viognier have been – in a word – exceptional.
It’s been said that in terms of versatility and food matching, Viognier is without compare. This is at least partly due to the fact that the wine’s lush mid-bodied creaminess is intrinsically lifted by the presence of lighter citrus blossom and stone fruit elements. Sometimes, a distinctive wine will place itself firmly and exclusively with light cheeses and salads, or alternatively only with the darker meats and heavy desserts. Not so the Viognier. Due to the unique combination of summery aromatics with a notable structure and finish, Viognier lends itself to an incredibly diverse array of delicious food matches. Coming up to the summer season for example, try a perfectly chilled glass of Viognier with any or all of these – spicy beef strips, chilli pork salad, garlic and dill prawns, or even a dense plum and almond cake. Unlike lighter whites, Viognier takes spicy and weightier dishes in her stride. Picture it: Looking out over the garden with great friends, some tangy morsels and a glass of lush Viognier… well, we just don’t think that summer can get much better than that!
A beautiful mystery
Viognier is one of those varietals that simply stand the test of time. Despite occasional obscurity and near-extinction, this aromatic white wine engages the senses in a unique and distinctive way. Whether providing heady aromatics, fine length or notable structural character (or all of the above), Viognier can certainly come as a pleasant surprise for many who appreciate premium white wines. It’s a mystery to us how the notable merits of Viognier have gone under-appreciated for so long. We’re delighted to be reversing this, and hope that you enjoy our delicious TWP 2014 Viognier over the summery months to come.