It may not be as well known as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, but Viognier is definitely on the up in terms of popularity.
Until the 80s only a relatively small amount was being grown in France. It is a tricky grape to grow: one that requires the grapes to be fully ripened before they impart their distinctive flavour.
But thanks to a surge in popularity Viognier is back in a big way, with wine makers and growers rising to the challenge and rising prices to match. It even has a dedicated fan website extolling its virtues.
On the evidence of this bottle from Southern France, I can see why.
It’s almost as distinctive as Gewürztraminer in its exotic combination of flavours.
Characteristic tastes of apricot and a rich juicy peach presence tingle through the mouth amid layers of floral fruity complexity. But it’s not overly perfumed, or distractingly incongruous – they work together harmoniously: novel and yet refined.
There’s a honeyed richness here but it remains a steady background presence, adding depth and substance to a pleasing racy tang. It’s a slightly sweet wine, but the finish has a mouth-watering acidity that stimulates the taste buds in anticipation of more.
It also has some of the almost creamy body of a good Chardonnay, but without any oak – in my book a very good thing. Nor is it so over the top as some wines made from Gewürztraminer.
There’s little to distract from the complex, rewarding display of flavour.
This wine is Vin de Pays, the French designation for “country wine”. In terms of quality rankings this means it’s one up on the table wine, but below an AOC. Interestingly, the powers that be allow these wines to have the grape variety from which they were squeezed written on the label, like New World wines.
Producers have strict regulations they must adhere to, but of course quality can vary considerably. It means bargains can be had by the intrepid wine buyer, and for £8.95 from the Brighton based Elwood Wines, I reckon this is one of them.