Ok, let’s face it: it’s getting to the end of summer. But before we get out the wool socks and jackets, let’s finish out the season with a glass of Viognier. And, although this distinctive wine can certainly carry its weight all year long, I find that most people drink whites when the days are still sunny.
First, let’s get the pronunciation of this difficult French word out of the way: VEE-oh-nyay. Practice it three times, as Sister Marcella Marie used to say, to get it in the marrow of your bones. There.
Viognier is an important white grape. It’s spiritual home is, obviously, in France. In particular in the Northern Rhone appellations of Condrieu and Château-Grillet which only produce age worthy voluptuous Viogniers. It is also unusual in that it is traditionally grown, harvested, crushed, and fermented along with Syrah grapes in the Côte-Rôtie appellation resulting in a more aromatic wine.
And that leads us to one of the qualities that differentiates this grape. Everyone loves to smell Viognier. It is one of the most aromatic of white wines, distinctive for having strong peach, pear, spice, honeysuckle, and floral notes.
What, you may ask, makes an aromatic wine so aromatic? Terpenes, my friend, terpenes. (Not turpentine!) These are chemical compounds found more in some grape varieties than others. They are also what cause flowers like rose, geranium, and orange blossoms to smell good. Fermentation also helps to unlock them. And winemakers can also use techniques to emphasize aromatics, like native yeast fermentation, extra lees contact, and avoiding contact with new oak barrels, which can mask those qualities.
There are a lot of differing end results and styles of Viognier from sweet and off dry, to dry, rounder and richer, to leaner and fresh. The sweeter ones go beautifully with spicy Asian cuisine. You pick the one you like.
Of course the 2017 vintage of 100% Viognier currently at Northwest Cellars is so delicious, in my opinion, that it may not last long. Maybe you should come over and try it. After all, we’re still having some beautiful sunny days!