© by Sheral Schowe
Viognier is a white wine grape that you have either never heard of, were afraid to try because it was new, and pronouncing it from a wine list posed a possible embarrassing challenge, or you really hated it or absolutely loved it. How could a wine generate such an emotional response? It has to do with perfume. No, French perfume is not added to the wine. Just as certain roses are more fragrant than others, this grape is the leader of the grapes as far as aromatics. Some folks love big, bold, heady perfumes, some like it more subtle, and some prefer none at all.
If you are in the first category, you will probably love Viognier. The grapes have a deep yellow color and the resulting white wine has no rivals as far as color and flavor extraction, in addition to a high alcohol content. The enchanting aroma is filled with apricots, peaches, and the most fragrant flowers imaginable. I have tried some tried some that smelled of roses, some of violets, some of verbena and some of freesia. Due to its inherently low acid content, Viognier should be consumed young, while the perfume is at its peak.
Viognier has become an extremely popular white wine during the 1990's with enormous increases in plantings in the Southern Rhone, California, Australia, and Italy. In France, from where the grape is said to have originated,the most famous appellations are Condrieu, Chateau Grillet, and Cote-Rotie. In California, it is grown mostly in Napa, Mendocino, and Santa Barbara with almost 1,000 total acres of planted vines.
Viognier, pronounced, "Veeown-yay," is available, in a wide range of prices in the wine stores. There are some spectacular buys on the lower end of the scale including Oxford Landing 2000 ($9.80) and Phillips EXP 1999 ($10.95) which I intend to serve at an upcoming Les Amis du Vin event at The Canyons. On the upper end of the scale, my favorite is the Acacia 1999,($27.15) from California's Carneros district. The Phelps Mistral Viognier 1999 ($35.35) is the priciest version of this white grape variety, but like most of Phelps Winery's famous Rhone varietal wines, it is worth the price. That is, of course, if you love wines with a captivating, intense, floral fragrance.
April 10, 2001