Wine 21: Viognier

HAPPY NATIONAL WINE DAY!!! May 25th is a day to celebrate, and one that gives me a reason/excuse to continue this blog! ūüėČ

Viognier is one of those wine varietals I love to pronounce: “vee-own-yay.” It makes me feel extremely French, and has ever since I first learned of its existence back in 2009 while waitressing.

Viognier is a thick-skinned grape which originated in the south of France, in the Rh√īne Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon regions. In the 1960s, this varietal was nearly extinct (only 35 acres existed!!), largely in part because it can be challenging to grow and has suffered from coulure (aka, shatter). Coulure is a viticultural hazard which is brought on by periods of cold and rainy weather or unusually high temperatures (global warming anyone?). The flowers on the grapevines stay closed, which leaves them unable to be fertilized. No fertilization means no pollination, and no pollination means no grapes, or rather that the grape doesn’t fully develop and eventually falls off.

I’m happy to report – in case you hadn’t guessed – viognier began a sort of renaissance in the 1970s thanks to some plantings across the ponds – in California and Australia! It is now, however, produced around the world, including in Italy, Switzerland, South Africa, and even Japan.

These grapes have a relatively low acidity, and develop a fair amount of sugar which is what gives viognier its signature higher levels of alcohol. However, there are many late harvest viogniers being produced, because the winemakers have found it challenging to get the sugar levels just right, and often find themselves with a sweeter version of this wine.

These wines are typically meant to be drunk young within the first couple years of the vintage, but some can handle aging a bit more. I read that California and Australian productions of viognier fall into the latter category.

This full-bodied white wine is known for having an extremely fruity flavor profile, with higher alcohol levels for white wines. For this post, I bought the 2016 Grande Réserve Cazal Viel Viognier from Southern France, with an ABV of 13.5%.

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Appearance: The color of this wine is a goldish, mellow yellow. It’s actually a pretty dark hue, and lightens towards the rim.

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Nose: Citrus notes around a fuzzy peach. It has a soft fragrance, and one that seems to invite you to take a taste. I was surprised at that softness, as I somewhat expected a more powerful aroma.

Taste: The wine carries a presence that isn’t there with most whites, due to the greater body, coating the mouth a bit more than other popular white wines (like sauvignon blanc). There is a very strong fruit flavor, but I’d say it’s a bit more like apricot and lemon mixed together. I also pick up a bit of a slightly-bitter floral taste, which leaves a bit of a minerally after-taste. And there’s definitely warmth that lingers in the back of your throat. Some may call this a ‘hot’ wine, where you can taste the higher alcohol level.

Overall: I wouldn’t necessarily call this a patio-pounder for the coming warmer months, as it is more of a sipper than a guzzler. I kind of like that; it was still refreshing in it’s own way.

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I love this cork design, don’t you?!

Viognier is one of those white wines that I’d imagine is often overlooked, which now, is a bit surprising. I know it’s sometimes blended with some reds to soften the boldness and high tannins of those varietals, but I think this wine stands well on its own.

I’d highly recommend trying one, and as I noted above, you essentially have your pick of region to get one from!

Happy drinking on National Wine Day!!! Cheers!

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