The thing about that supermodel is that she’s not just tall, skinny and pretty. She’s super because she’s in very high demand and did not need to “get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day”. Viognier is that “it” girl. As a child, she was taller than even some boys – she was a tom boy who slouched a lot and was great at sports but not so great at make-up, hair, clothing and shoes. As she came of age she realized what she was working with and inevitably ended up in the fashion world, where her height was now an asset and her additional assets set her apart from the rest.
Who is she anyway?
Viognier is one of the “white wine trying to be a red wine” grape varieties, so much so that it ended up in blends with Syrah (the CEO, see previous post). This seemingly odd blending tradition started because they dwell in the same vineyards in parts of the Northern Rhône, and ended up getting picked and pressed together – field blend. French law sanctions up to 20% of Viognier in a Côte Rôtie wine, but this fickle, difficult-to-grow, low yielding vine makes it less than possible to eek out more than around 5%, and nowadays she doesn’t even show up for work (today’s Côte-Rôtie wines are 100% Syrah). The Aussies carried on the tradition in wineries that pay true homage to the heritage of Shiraz, blending Viognier in and even saying so on the label. These blends also only contain around 5% Viognier. Nonetheless, her presence in a blend is felt.
As a soloist, Viognier’s sensual, heady perfume and full body on the palate makes for a highly sought after varietal wine. The benchmark is Condrieu (pronounced kon-dree-YOU) in the Northern Rhône, one of France’s most exotic and captivating white wines. Her other happy home is in California, under the auspicies of The Rhône Rangers, the wiley wine renegades who wanted more than just Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay for a muse. Viognier has a few things in common with Gewürztraminer (the Diva, see previous post), including an difficult-to-pronounce name – say “vee-OH-nee-YAY”. And don’t mess it up or you might get slapped!
Flavor Profile and Food Pairing
For flavor profile, lovers of great classic perfume would love Viognier. If your mother wore Channel No. 5 when you were growing up and you enjoyed the summer’s ripest peaches or you enjoy exciting things that the mainstream consider luxurious such as artisan cheeses, truffles, smoked salmon, caviar – you’re a Viognier person for sure. If you really must pair Viognier with a meal *sigh* I see filet mignon with fingerling potatoes and perhaps some wilted spinach as a nice meal. But understand that you will have to tailor the meal to the wine (that’s generally true but it is especially true for the supermodel). You will find that she is worth it indeed!
Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 2 Viogniers. Ask your favorite retailer or browse your favorite wine website for a California Viognier as well as something from the Languedoc (south of France). New York State also produces some Viognier – Brooklyn Oenology makes one from North Fork of Long Island grapes which was a favorite at our store. Be prepared to spend $15.00 or more per bottle – because the vines yield low, its naturally an expensive wine to make. For extra credit, treat yourself a bottle of Condrieu. Top producers include Georges Vernay and E. Guigal). Not everyone will have these in stock but most will know what you’re talking about. Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #ViognierHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. That’s delicious!