Friday, 30 April 2021

The remarkable renaissance of the viognier grape


Viognier is a once-obscure and threatened white wine grape from one region of France that is now making a global impact.

It is the only permitted grape for the Condrieu appellation n the Rhône Valley but is now also grown in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Israel, as well as North America.

In some wine regions, the variety is co-fermented with shiraz (syrah) and other red grapes.

In Australia, Yalumba produces five different wines made from viognier each vintage and other leading wineries using the variety include Clonakilla (whose shiraz viognier is a benchmark), Henschke, Tahbilk and By Farr. 

It also often blended with two other white Rhône grapes; marsanne and roussanne.   

Today is International Viognier Day - the perfect chance to try a variety that produces full-bodied whites that can be both aromatic and textural, often with apricot fruit notes to the fore.

The grape requires a long, warm growing season to fully ripen and thrives in the Eden Valley, It is believes the grape originated in what is today Croatia, and was brought to the Rhône by the Romans. 

In 1965, the grape was almost extinct with only eight Northern Rhône producers using the variety.

Since the early 1990s, the variety has found new favour around the world.

Louisa Rose, chief winemaker at family-owned Yalumba, is one of the cheerleaders for the variety.

Yalumba, which dates back to 1849, planted 1.2 hectares of viognier in the Eden Valley back in 1980 - well ahead of the curve. There are now 16 different parcels across five Yalumba vineyards in the Eden Valley, Riverland and Limestone Coast.

"Viognier is exciting to talk about; something new and different and that goes with our-food-based lifestyle," says Rose. "There is still a long way to go to make the variety known to all drinkers - still a lot of spreading the word."

The Yalumba range includes the flagship The 2018 Virgilius ($50ish), which is luscious and complex; the savoury and stylish Eden Valley 2019 Viognier ($28) and two terrific entry level wines; the fresh and vibrant 2020 Y Series Viognier ($15ish) and the exotically perfumed Yalumba 2019 Organic Viognier ($22)  - both of which shine when chilled well and paired with spicy Thai dishes. There is also a botrytis version. 

See www.yalumba.com     

 
  

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