Try a new grape variety which is very food-friendly | Alistair Gibson
Viognier – pronounced Vee-own-yay – is a grape variety that a few decades ago almost ceased to exist such was the lack of interest in it.
At one point there were just a few vineyards of it left in northern Rhône.
While it may never compete with chardonnay or sauvignon blanc in terms of popularity, it is now much more widely planted in southern France through to Australia and virtually everywhere else between.
It is not a cool-climate grape but enjoys warm, Mediterranean temperatures producing wines which have often been described as hedonistic and even sensuous.
This week celebrates International Viognier Day and so if you’ve yet to enjoy the charms of this very food-friendly grape, this is a perfect time to try.
Le Versant Viognier 2019, Pays d’Oc, Les Vignobles Foncalieu (Hennings Wine £9.99) is made in a slightly more restrained, elegant style than some examples from the south of France and hence is a good place to start. The nose offers honeysuckle, soft stone fruits and maybe just a touch of pineapple. You could happily serve this as an aperitif or with a simple chicken pilaf.
Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2019, Guigal (Tesco £12.00, The Wine Society £11.50) is made by one of the region’s most famous producers and is a blend made of 60 per cent viognier, along with marsanne, roussanne and lesser quantities of other Rhone varietals.
The nose is very much dominated by the viognier. This is a lovely wine, and also a great reminder that the Côtes du Rhône has some interesting and often really good value white wines on offer. Try serving this with a mild curry, it works really well.
Yalumba is recognised as being one of the world’s most influencial producers of viognier, having planted the first significant viognier vineyard in Australia in the 1980s. Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2020, South Australia (Majestic £9.49 but £7.49 as part of a mixed six, Co-op £9.00, Morrisons £8.50) maybe Yalumba’s entry-level viognier but I think this is the perfect introduction to this variety and totally over-delivers at this level. Try this with a crab and chilli linguine.
If you want to trade up a little then Yalumba ‘Samuel’s Collection’ Viognier 2017, Eden Valley (tauruswines.co.uk £15.99) was partially barrel-fermented in older oak barrels and offers a little more depth and complexity than its little brother. I drank this with roast pork and it was the perfect match.