Condrieu, the homeland of Viognier
International Viognier Day is celebrated annually on April 29.
There are probably many discussions about how to pronounce the name of this grape variety which, in percentage terms, has grown much more than any other in the last fifty years.
If you check online, you can see “vee-aa-nyay”, “vee-own-yay”, “vee-ON-yay”. Admittedly, the least successful essay I’ve heard locally is “wog-ner”.
Years of enjoying wines from this fruit source have made me settle for “vee-ohn-yay,” and I maintain that’s probably okay.
I think I’m also right to say that in 1975, when I first entered the wine business, there was perhaps only one vineyard left of this beautiful varietal in the whole world.
When Jancis Robinson wrote the book Grapes & Wines in 1985, she said the Viognier hardly deserved a mention because she could only find 80 acres in total.
We can definitely call it “the comeback child” with worldwide plantings of around 35,000 acres. One account I found said there were only 17 acres left in 1965; it was very close to extinction!
I like the saying: “Viognier is for those of us who like to stop and smell the flowers. Honeysuckle, mandarin, mango, mayflower, vanilla, nutmeg and clove. The one that usually identifies it to me is the delicious ripe peach and physical stickiness that gives it a creamy feel that you can literally see when the wine is poured.
The legend says that the Roman emperor Probus brought this grape variety to France, and we will start with that of the AOC de Condrieu where it is the only grape variety authorized to be planted, and only with old strains which maintain the richness of this grape variety.
The total vineyard area of this small appellation on the steep northern slopes of the Rhone Valley is only around 420 acres and it is considered the spiritual home of Viognier.
Our 2019 Chapoutier Condrieu Guest is produced by a leading family of Rhône winegrowers for over 200 years, since 1808. They are today the leaders in the field of biodynamics throughout France.
Pour and observe its deep golden yellow with green highlights. The nose is very fruity with exotic fruits (pineapple), acacia flower, lychee, apricot and white peach and it is round and full with a good length in the mouth and a final touch of vanilla. .
The soils of the vineyard are composed of altered schists and granites which are revealed in the wine by an aromatic power and a great complexity. This type of soil also gives the wine freshness and minerality.
If you have Asian or Oriental food, this is perfection. Simply sipping it is also a pleasure. Critic Jeb Dunnock gives it a very credible 94/100. $62 (Stock #9450).
Now we only move a few meters from the old limit of Condrieu and the same family offer you Chapoutier La Combe Pilate Viognier 2019 and while their winemaker observes, decides and guides, they allow Mother Nature to have the last word.
The soils of the Chapoutier estate know neither pesticides nor herbicides, the ﬂoral growth of the vine is essential. The natural cycles of the earth, sun and moon are also taken into account, as required by the principles of biodynamic agriculture.
After harvest, direct pressing of the whole bunches followed by a selection of the best juices from the pressing. Settling followed by fermentation in old 600 liter oak barrels followed by aging for 8 to 9 months in stainless steel vats.
The wine undergoes a malolactic fermentation and a very light batonnage of the lees (batonnage) during the first months of ageing. As with all Chapoutier wines, this wine bears Braille on the label.
I haven’t mentioned what you can see, smell or taste because you can pay $27 and experience the pleasure of your own impressions, which I promise will be favorable. (Stock #9438).
My go-to Viognier over the years has been Chapoutier Domaine des Granges Mirabel Viognier and I’m not the only one, because we came out of the 2018 vintage that we have on our list.
I do want to mention the 2020 vintage though, as it is expected to arrive in May. The cellar tells us that it is quite deep greenish yellow with aromas of apricot, pear and marmalade. Their sommelier offers seafood, including salmon as an accompaniment.
Like the others here, it has the Demeter symbol on the label to say it has been certified biodynamic.
I often like the tone of reviews that have been translated into English from another language and here is one about this wine from Europe: “Pear aroma on the first nose, an elegant backdrop here with a good tone clear, pleasant and decisive. The palate is good; it’s great to have a clear Viognier. The exotic fruits come together halfway. Ace wine!
Our stock is #9454 oneAnd if you find a bottle of the 2018 in one of our stores, the price is $24.55.
If we travel to the New World, the only example I can offer you is 2020 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend that has been for many years now, the best-selling wine, in the crates, from this iconic Napa Valley winery.
Canadian writer Natalie MacLean comments, “Pine Ridge 2020 is great value. A dynamic blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier, the grapes for this vintage come from the banks of the Sacramento River in Clarksburg with Viognier wine grapes from California’s Lodi wine region.
“Dry, lush and medium-bodied with flavors of ripe apple, passion fruit, ginger and citrus on the palate. Refrigerate and enjoy with grilled pork chops. Chenin blanc viognier pairings: seafood fondue, grilled chicken, grilled shellfish.
A nice refresher for the upcoming weather for $24.75 (Stock No. 6037).
This column is an infomercial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at email@example.com. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm