Emma says: “OK, I admit it. This whole 52 grape thing has got me overexcited. This week I realised it was the perfect excuse to go back to buying wines I’ve never tasted from an eclectic mix of stores. Just like I used to do before wine become my job.”
So yes, I bought two Viogniers. The reason, well like I said in the buying guide, it can be dramatically different in style and I wanted to learn which would be Andy’s favourite. The first is Domaine les Yeuses Viognier 2016 Pays’Doc; so South of France – I stuck to that promise. Then I got lured into buying a Sonoma (California) Viognier from Cline cellars; a well known winery from that part of the world but not a wine I’ve tasted from them before.
Actually I’m not expecting Andy or many other of our fellow tasters to naturally like this grape. It fits a certain flavour profile that I think appeals to only some people. If you like your whites to have character and find those dry Italian whites boring, it could be for you. On the other hand some people find it too overtly floral, rich and fruity.
So what did I make of them. As I suspected, Domaine Les Yeuses Viognier 2016 was definitely my favourite. The unoaked French styles have more zip, freshness and a good grapefruit pith bite. You do get that lovely violet perfume but it is mild not overdone. Plus there is a sort of mineral saline back bone that gives it a bit of complexity. This is a rich wine but not overtly so.
Then you move onto the Cline Viognier. And wow, it is a different ball game entirely. First the fruit is very ripe, tinned peaches and orange blossom aromas, then ripe apricots, creamy and textured on the palate. You also get a mild menthol note and a violet cream richness. So it has complexity. But it is a little too supercharged to me. Just a personal preference thing. But when I drink wines this like I only ever really want one glass. Plus the alcohol is 14% – ouch that is big for a white wine.
As for food matching, I think the French Viognier would be more versatile. It would go well with things that have a touch of spice like chicken paprika dishes, paella or rich cheese like halloumi or feta. Then the Cline Viognier has that bit more power so it can stand up to dishes with Tex Mex flavours or Moroccan tagines.
Now over to you, have we got any converts? And don’t forget to check out the Viognier page to read more about this grape.
Andy says: “So once again this week we are tasting two different versions of the ‘same wine’. This is not normal, and was not the idea for the site – you really don’t have to try more than one. I’m putting it down to youthful exuberance on Emma’s part. Hopefully it will wear off soon and we’ll just be having the one and I won’t have to think so much.”
On to the wines. According to Emma’s excellent notes, I should be getting grapefruit, apricot and violet. Let’s take those one by one.
In the same way a parsnip tricks you into thinking it’s a lovely roast potato, a grapefruit is basically an evil orange. You’re expecting some sweet juicy goodness, but instead you bite into a sour bitter ball of hell. I don’t like parsnips, and I don’t like grapefruit. Unfortunately I’m picking up grapefruit flavour profiles here, fortunately there is no hint of parsnip.
Apricot – the jam you nan has, right? She doesn’t have marmite or nutella, just apricot jam, and some out of date all bran. I don’t like apricots (childhood issues) and to be honest I couldn’t even think what they might taste like (unlike grapefruit, I do know that taste, because Tequila n’ Ting) – so no, I don’t get the apricot bit. Grapefruit yes, apricot no. One out of two so far.
Violet? Violet is a colour, not a taste. But! AHA! Parma Violets! Those awful, awful tiny purple sweets! Yes, ok, I can smell that. When Emma first started trying to educate me about wine a few years ago, I remember her pouring me a Viognier and me saying “this smells like Parma Violets”, and her being amazed that I’d said that, as violet was a typical Viognier note. Violet and Viognier both start with V, which is a nice way to remember. You can look forwards to more top tips like that through the year.
The Domaine Les Yeuses was quite sour, and I found that it made my mouth water quite a lot, especially from the cheeks. It wasn’t an unpleasant wine, but I wouldn’t say I was loving it. Maybe a hot summer’s day would be more suitable.
The Cline I found to be a little sweeter, and of the two was my preference. But, it was also quite soapy and had a whiff of those cherry lip sweets that probably don’t exist anymore. I didn’t really like them, either
In summary, I think I’ve found that I’m not a massive Viognier fan. All the things it’s supposed to taste like are things I basically don’t like.
Picking a benchmark Viognier isn’t easy as it’s available in so many different styles. Oaked or unoaked? New World or classic European? Warm or cool climate? Each of these styles will be very different.
When this is the case, we’ll try to describe how to buy a wine we think best represents the pure taste of the base material – the grape.
Condrieu is the famous Viognier region, but it’s small and the wines from there tend to be pricey. You’re also unlikely to find Condrieu in the supermarket, so unlike last week when we said to find a Rioja (a region that predominantly uses Tempranillo), this week we simply want you head to the French whites section of the wine aisle and look for any Viognier.
It is likely to come from the South of France – the Languedoc or Rhone to be specific. In general, most of the wines from that area will have little or no oak, but if the back label says “unoaked”, even better!
If you do spot a Condrieu, feel free to buy it. It will give you a taste of the intensity this grape can really achieve.
If for some reason your shop lacks French Viognier then do try an Australian or other new world style. It will taste a lot riper and richer than the style we’ll try, but we’ll welcome your thoughts on those too.