It’s the 30 April, which may as well be my birthday, as it’s the international celebration of one of my favourite types of wine – Viognier. And it is a Friday, so let us all raise a glass to this aromatic, romantic grape. It’s like it knew it was the start of the weekend.
Viognier is typically fuller-bodied, rich in flavour and rather high in alcohol. Some say it has a sensual, almost oily (in a good way) mouthfeel and it can get quite hedonistic with its fervent floral aromas. It is a wine that can trick us as it often smells a little sweet, despite being dry, because of its exotic scent and what that does to our brain. Being both boozy and voluptuous, it’s clear to see why this wine might strike a chord with me…
Viognier has a low level of natural acidity, so it is not the wine to choose for that crisp refreshing zing at the end of the day. Our palates are subjective, but this grape typically creates flavours of honeysuckle, roses, oranges, white peaches, beeswax, apricots and orange blossom. There is a lot going on in there!
The warmer the climate where the grapes are grown, the more the ripe fruit flavours come to the fore, which is worth bearing in mind when you are selecting a bottle and thinking about your own preferences. Wherever it comes from, however, it is the kind of wine that promises romance.
Native to Condrieu in France’s Northern Rhone (in France, Viognier can also be referred to as “Condrieu”) now this gorgeous wine is made in Australia, Argentina, Italy, South Africa and California where is often aged beautifully in Oak. When it is oaked it becomes even richer, heavier and more florally fragrant, but naturally it has a more subtle scent, almost like an English country garden.
However, this isn’t a grape that demands the spotlight. If you are ever offered a white Rhone blend then it will usually contain some Viognier alongside Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanco and in France’s Côte Rôtie a little Viognier is also blended into their red Syrah to stabalise the deep colour, add a sexy silky texture and enhance the floral and red fruit aromas.
A weekend wine is all very well, but what about the all-important food pairing? Despite, or because, of the heady perfume of this wine it can actually pair with a great number of dishes.
The gentle spice and white blossoms mean it’s a good match for more succulent seafood dishes like lobster, salmon or prawns in a buttery sauce but can equally hold its own with grilled meats at your weekend BBQ. The layers of flavours and that brain-tricking sensation of sweetness also means it compliments beautifully Thai food, dishes flavoured with almonds or herbs such as basil and tarragon and even stewed fruits. In fact, just let this wine sing with a fruity meat dish such as chicken and apricot tagine, roast pork with pineapple or duck in hoisin sauce.
Like many of us, Viognier is really affected by temperature so serving it straight from the fridge at a cool seven degrees will make it fresher and smoother, whereas leaving it for just a few minutes on the side before serving at around 12-13 degrees will enhance its richness and flamboyance.
Personally, I like to evoke this wine’s opulent nature but, as with all things wine, learn what you like and enjoy it as you wish. Happy International Viognier Day!
Libby Zietsman-Brodie is the founder of Bacchus & Brodie, an independent wine consultant and co-creator and presenter of Boozy & The Beast: How To Drink Better – an irreverent series on wine, without the snobbery. Instagram: @a_little_sip_of_me_time @boozybeastTV