Week 2 – Viognier

Tasting Notes

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.

Buying Guidelines

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.

26 thoughts to “Week 2 – Viognier”

  1. (catch-up!)

    I’ve always liked Viognier, it usually has it’s own character, so looked forward to this one.

    Wine – Bellingham ‘Bernard Series’ Viognier, Western Cape, 2016 (Majestic £11)
    Bottle says – peach, white pear, oak, spice

    On the nose it was clean and crisp, with the oak blending all the aromas together a little. Slightly perfumed and complex.

    This was quite tame for a Viognier, with the dominant flavour being a slightly bitter orange marmalade flavour (something like a Cooper’s Thick Cut, rather than a Robertsons Golden Shred), underpinned with a heavy sweetness. I also got peaches and pear drops, (although not quite sure what a white pear tastes like, I live in Yorkshire, we only got bananas in 1975) Also, the oak wasn’t too intrusive at all.

    The marmalade flavours were also dominant in the finish, which lingered nicely. I drank this wine on its own, but I imagine it would hold its own with food.

  2. Big fan of Viognier wines. It’s a welcoming change from all the Chardonnays offered by many restaurants and wine shoppes in our area.
    Our first choice was Domaine Les Grand Bois 2016 Viongier from Cote Du Rhone. It was pleasant , light aroma (undertermined) and vanilla flavor. A fairly consistent wine with a citrus moment or two. I would recommend this wine for someone that appreciates the subtleties and nuances of this particular vintage.
    The second choice was Dutcher’s Crossing 2015 Viognier from the Dry Creek Valley region of California. This was fantastic! Spicy nose with a pear/ mango that lingered for a moment, uncertain what it would do next, not a disappointment mind you. Honeyed finish with a touch of minerality (Dave’s comments). If your looking for some excitement in your wine glass…this is it.

  3. Long time listener, first time caller. Apologies for back tracking here!

    I was excited to see Viognier on the schedule so early as it is my drink of choice at the pub up my street. I fear the ambiance of The Clifton might be skewing the experience, however, as my solo adventure into Viognier was not as lovely. I grabbed the French option from my local M&S – sadly, I forget anything more about its origin.

    Would it be crazy to say it was a bit metallic? If that edge could be taken off, I think there were some really nice flavors somewhere in there. In my search for those flavors, I finished the bottle.

    Still holding out hope for the Viognier,

  4. This wasn’t going to be my thing and I’ve never knowingly drunk this grape but the point of the exercise is to experience new things… so here we go…
    Attempting to cast my preconceptions aside, I also sampled the night-harvested Waitrose Laurent Miguel 2016 Viognier, plucked from the shelf as I did my weekly food shop.
    To look at, well… pale straw coloured (the colour I’d like to see my urine if I drank enough water each day).
    To smell, it was inoffensive.. floral honeysuckle with a citrus twang – though all I was thinking was Andy’s evil-grapefruit.
    But most importantly to taste – it was surprisingly easy to drink; I got apricot and a touch of pear with medium acidity, with a latter reappearance of evil-grapefruit, melon sweetness and nutty-stone residue of the apricot on the finish.
    I had this wine with an evening meal, chicken and steamed veg but if I bought it again I would probably pair it with fish (the label suggests Thai Crab Cakes – I’m all-over that idea) ideally well-chilled, sitting outside on a very warm summer’s day.
    So my view was tainted to begin with but I was pleasantly surprised, as I can see where I would experience this grape (or even this specific wine) again… I’ll count that as a win.

  5. My recollections of Viognier from many years ago are that I wasn’t very excited with it as a grape variety. So I am looking forward to seeing if the wine or my perception has changed in any way.

    We are quite limited in terms of wine merchants in our part of the world, and the closest supermarkets are Waitrose and M&S. I had a look at Waitrose and in their range of Viognier they ranged from a basic version at £6.99 to the Condrieu at £39.99, but the bog standard wasn’t available so the cheapest option was £9.99, a price that I wasn’t prepared to pay for a grape that my memory told me I may not like.

    We have a Bargain Booze at the end of the road and they offer a French version at £6.99 and a Chilean at £6.49. It was Hobson’s Choice as the French one was out of stock, so I came home with Cono Sur Viognier.

    The wine is bright and a rich honeyed green in colour. Interesting!

    The nose is honeyed as well, and it is easy to see why it is often blended with Chardonnay. I think that I am getting a hint of asparagus with rich gooseberries. Also some appley flavours as well.

    A real surprise (to me) on the palate. Rich, full and honeyed flavours with just the right amount of acidity. I think that I am getting a hint of asparagus on the palate as well. There are definitely other flavours there, but my inexperience prevents me from pinning them down. Unripe peach? 13% ABV, so a good mouthful.

    This is a deliciously complex wine which turns all of my preconceptions around. Most enjoyable and definitely one to drink again. Now for some cheese!

    1. You appear to have failed to visit M&S Ian! How very dare you. Emma will be very sad. Both Brydens detecting apple, will be monitoring for further family alignment as the year progresses.

      1. I beg forgiveness. Basically idle; Bargain Booze at top of road and Waitrose for regular shop. Bought the Shiraz from Waitrose – details when I taste, but will have a look at M&S for the Riesling. Promise.

  6. I owe a review from last week, although that memory is a little faded now. I’m sitting here drinking my viognier and it seems a perfect time to write about it.

    The bottle is from the Coop and is a St. Gabriel’s Vineyard 2016. It’s from Languedoc-Roussillon and is meant to go well with cheese which is good because we had cheese on toast for tea this evening. Actually it was more of a welsh rarebit, a little more middle class.
    I’m determined to learn something from all this and educate my nose and tongue so I’ve read the notes and I’ve read the reviews of my wine on Vivino. My hope is that some of those words will trigger something. Here goes.

    To start with, the wine is nice. I am quite happily drinking it and would enjoy it on a sunny day. I’d describe it as crisp and not too heavy (but not too light). It has a sort of pear drop smell to it and comes over as sharp. The tasting notes suggest that there’s a grapefruit sharpness and I get that, it’s a little like those sharp breakfast fruit juices (you know, the grapefruit ones). There’s definitely no violet here which I think I’m relieved about. I think that there’s peach there to, a pleasant softness on the nose that comes through the sharpness.

    The more I taste it the more I’m convinced that there is some vanilla coming through, but this is an after taste. The wine coats the mouth and has a strong taste at the back of the throat (I’m assuming due to the 13.5% alcohol level). I ate an apple during the tasting because I read that I should be able to taste apple. I think that I could, and not just because I’d eaten apple. It definitely tastes like the type of wine that would cut through a rich dish, something cheesy or slightly spicy.

    On the whole I like this. I’m going to give 3 out of 5 on Vivino but I’m not sure what I’m marking it against (i.e. where the marker is for a middle of the road wine). I would buy it again – it wasn’t very expensive and I think that it would go very well a cheesy sunny afternoon.

    1. Hey there,

      Great to have you on board and some really nice notes.

      That hint of vanilla could mean this wine has some oak. Lots of winemakers chose to use a little oak on Viognier and it also adds that bit more texture. So when you said that it “coats your mouth” that makes me think it did.

      Hope that makes the experience a bit more interesting!

  7. So I tried the elegant frog s 2016 Viognier from the languedoc. Got to say I’ve had better viogniers from the new world and would never have chosen this so good education. Very smooth, not offensive but slightly sour, and over powered by my Thai curry. Certainly didn’t get dried fruit, peach or floral tones I was promised.

  8. I’m quite relieved to read all the comments and discover that it wasn’t just me who struggled a bit with Viognier. I tried Laurent Miquel’s ‘Viognier Vendanges Nocturnes 2016’ from the Pay d’Oc (Waitrose £9.39). I was intrigued to read on the label that the grapes were harvested at night to ensure the temperature was just right to ensure they were in top condition, so I had high expectations. However, I didn’t love the wine itself.

    It smelt very sharp and citric and this followed through to the taste that was also very sharp, verging on sour. I couldn’t really discern much fruitiness (maybe a hint of peach if I tried) and there wasn’t much finish. It’s not a wine you can swig on its own; it needs food to cut through the citric sourness.

    So, while there was nothing wrong with it, the wine wasn’t really for me and I found it disappointing. But that’s part of the fun of trying new things!

    1. Hi Will,

      Thanks for the comments. Poor Viognier, it isn’t fairing that well so far is it?!

      The night time harvesting comment is interesting. That actually started in the new world countries where they found harvesting at night and transporting the grapes when cooler helps preserve the fresher fruity flavours. It is true that it can be a good thing, it is pretty widespread in the new world even for the basic end of winemaking. But then it does entail machine harvesting and hand picking is often the best way to select the best fruit and keep it intact. So it sounds with your wine is was just a nice marketing message!

  9. My choice is Domaine Les Yeuses. A wine full of flavour and with a good after taste. I’m not a lover of violet creams, but I didn’t really get a strong flavour of that. I would only drink this with a meal, as I found it quite a heavy wine, & if I had a few glasses of this, before wine with a meal I think I would be under the table very quickly!!!

    The Cline Viognier not really to my liking, I found it a bit sour, with little flavour; I’ve tasted better Viognier.

  10. I have to confess I’m not a fan of white wine, not that I’ve had many poor examples but my preference is always red (unless I’m attending a work dinner where there’s a fish course and i conform with the fish/white wine etiquette!).
    I bought the first bottle of Voignier I could get my hands on…Voignier Pay D’Oc from winemaker Oliver Mandeville in the Languedoc region, unoaked at £7.50. So I’ve met two of Emma and Andy’s criteria ‘Languedoc’ and ‘unoaked’ but didn’t go for the ‘pricey’ end.
    We had this with our Sunday ‘chicken’ roast dinner, quite fitting as the back of the bottle suggested pairing this with chicken. The back of the bottle also described this as ‘fruity and sumptuous, tasting of peach and white flowers’. I haven’t tasted ‘white flowers’ before so not sure if that was coming through in the flavour. In fact nothing really came through on the nose or in the flavour. We had one glass each and concluded this wine was lacking flavour, it didn’t really have much to it at all. It wasn’t an unpleasant wine, it just lacked presence. My wife said she’d happily drink in chilled on a hot summer’s afternoon as a refreshing drink but wouldn’t be serving it with food. We opened a bottle of Pinot Noir and enjoyed that instead. Perhaps i should have invested time in seeking a bottle over £10 and the review may have been very different.

    1. Hi there,

      Good to hear we’ve tempted you into trying some new whites. Although it sounds like we haven’t quite found you the “one” yet.

      An Australian Viognier would have packed a bit more richness in flavour. So that is worth a try if you want to give Viognier another chance! Or you can just wait the many other white grapes on their way….


  11. Well, I’m just gonna jump in with my notes on this one, even before Emma’s shares hers. Sorry; just impatient like that.
    Confession time first – I’ve never really got on with Viognier. I’ve always found it an oddly depressing wine. Something about its oily/waxy texture dampens rather than lifts my spirits, so generally I steer clear of it. That’s not what I got into wine for!
    But I looked forward to the challenge of this as a way of addressing my prejudices.
    But, knowing what I know, I needed to get a wine that punched above its weight, something that would really help Viognier win me over. So, perhaps controversially, I went for a blend, a Reserve de Gassac 2016, which is the ‘second’ white wine from the legendary Mas de Daumas Gassac estate in the Hérault area of the Languedoc.
    While it’s hard to get an exact breakdown of the grapes used, most sources say its predominantly Viognier, with either Chardonnay, Chenin and Petit Manseng, or Marsanne added. It cost me £10.99 from a local independent merchant – Corks of North St – here in Bristol.
    In the glass it’s an inviting pale gold colour with a greenish glint. It follows with a beautifully complex bouquet layering pear drop aromas (in a good way!) with papaya, melon, lime and lemon zest, some honeysuckle, a hint of spice, even some fennel seed and steamed veg backnotes. A wonderfully summery and opulent nose, one I could get very used to. I’m not an expert on oak, but to me there’s a hint of some barrel maturation being used on this wine (maybe the Chardonnay?), just enough to bolster its edges with a ripe golden richness.
    In the mouth it’s less engaging. The strange oily texture is there, mouthcoating and pleasantly luscious, and balanced here with good acidity. The flavours aren’t as profound as the aromas; to me they seem somewhat dulled by the wine’s texture. It’s certainly elegant – in a good way, not in a polite way of saying its boring way. Flavours are revealed gradually: it’s not a wine that gives itself away too easily.
    I’d say it is soft, rather than crisp, and finishes with a good length that holds some of the flavours (green boiled sweets, fresh herbs, spices and a impossible-to-define minerally tingle).
    This is a great food wine, an excellent partner for slow-cooked French dishes involving buttery, caramelised potatoes, onions and herbs, or richer fish like halibut, again with buttery caramelised onions and potatoes.
    All in all, I have to admit I liked this wine a lot, but I’m still not convinced I like Viognier. I take my hat off to the winemakers though. I feel as if they share my hesitation with the grape and have added just what’s required to elevate it into a harmonious wine with impressive complexity. The really good thing is, it didn’t make me depressed.

    1. Hi Will – No problem, that’s why we put the page up a week ahead of time. Glad you’re enjoying the challenge! (is it a challenge?!)

      Only 50 more to go!

      1. Yeah, very much so. I’ve never had any structure in my wine education, so it’s nice to focus on something specific. The real challenge for me though is getting my comments down to under 100 words! I will endeavour. How are you enjoying it?

    2. Hey Will,

      Great choice I love the Mas de Daumas wines from the Languedoc – Red and Whites. I’ll have to track that down.

      Loving the tasting notes. “Steamed veg” is a new one. Looking forward to what Shiraz brings next week!


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