I'm sure everyone is familiar with the phrase "Variety is the Spice of Life" which is one of my favorite quotes, and one I subscribe to myself. Is not life much better when it is filled with a "variety" of the things we like? Of course, it is. It is inevitable that some wines in your life will become trite and your palate will crave new tastes, new experiences, so it's nice to have other wines that you still enjoy to fall back on.
Now there's is nothing wrong with giving the garden-variety Chardonnay a swirl now and then. But it's, of course, a wine which is very plentiful, one you can find on just about any grocery store shelf. But when you've got to the point, that many seasoned vino-sapiens ultimately get to, the last thing you want is Chardonnay. Especially when the world is brimming over with a virtual cornucopia of other white wines, all sporting many different styles, flavors, and aromas.
Wine with Depth: So you think the Golden State Warriors has depth on the bench? Uh-no not compared to this champion with roots in the Northern Rhone Valley of France. It's with the idea of "depth" that I bring to your attention a white wine with some depth, complexity, intermixed with bold flavors and floral characteristics, sure to please even the most discriminating palates, yes maybe even you lurkers out there.
I present to you Viognier [pronounced vee-oh-nyah]. A white wine which has its roots in France's Northern Rhone Valley. In fact, according to one so-called wine expert Remington Norman who has identified two distinct strains of Viognier an "Old World" strain, most common in Condrieu, and a "New World" strain, which is found in the Languedoc and other areas.
Although made from the same grape, the two strains produce distinctly different wines, and Viognier from Condrieu tends to be on the expensive side of the equation. So with that said, you will mostly find the NW strain here in the states, although if you stretched yourself and did some research, you could find yourself some of the Old World style Viognier, a feat which to many is not unlike obtaining the holy-grail.
Personality Disorder: Uh-huh, so you thought only people were the only ones with personality disorders? Sadly it too can be said that even your favorite wine can have the same dysfunction. There are a couple styles of New World Viognier to be found, and the style you chose depends on whether it has been aged in Oak or Stainless Steel.
If the wine has been aged in Oak, it will give creamy nuances along with its floral expressions you can also look forward to an in a heady bouquet of nectarine, lemon peel and lychee complemented by floral notes of lime blossom and honeysuckle.
But if you prefer the more traditional stainless steel approach or made in neutral oak barrels, look for more clean flavors, higher acid, tending toward a more restrained style and but at the same time more elegant. Meaning the wine will be more pronounced on the nose and typically feature a bit less weight on the palate.
Aroma Therapy: Everyone needs a little “aroma-therapy” now and then, it’s also happens to be in true in Côte-Rôtie [known by many as the roasted slope] because it’s here that the very aromatic Viognier [up to 20% allowed] lends a hand at perfuming the blends of Syrah from this very well known French wine Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the northern Rhône wine region.
The beautiful red wines of the Côte-Rôtie typically exhibit an almost paradoxical combination of meat aromas [including bacon] and floral aromas, or as I've heard, it liked to as, “the flowers on my breakfast-in-bed tray.”
Pairing Champion: Viognier is a food pairing champion and can stand up nicely to rich, creamy dishes and butter-based sauces. It is especially useful as an appetizer pairing wine, which pairs ever-so-nicely with lightly toasted French baguette, cut in small bite size slices covered with a base blend of goat cheese, topped with fig paste, orange rind, it's just fantastic. Viognier also pairs nicely with soft and semisoft cheeses: Fresh chèvre [goat cheese], gruyère, aged Gouda, and double and triple creams, give it a swirl, you won't be disappointed.
Other dishes: Foods that I've found pair best with Viognier quite nicely include but are certainly not limited to, Chicken Cutlets based in anise, tarragon butter sauce. Another good option is roasted Salmon covered in a creamy yogurt herb sauce and will also go nicely with any number seafood dishes, shellfish Scallops, lobster, crab, and shrimp.
Shopping Tips: I've gathered a few other selections as well, some great choices that I've run across myself recently, that I'm sure will please a broad range of palates.
K Vintners Viognier 2009 (Columbia Valley; $20). Edgy spices and minerals under honeyed white peach, orange blossom, and apricot. I tasted this one at the 2010 Walla, Walla Wine Bloggers conference this past summer and it's just fantastic. 90 Points
Miner Simpson Vineyard Viognier 2009 [Napa Valley, CA $20] Nice minerality and citrusy yet lush, with white peach and apricot nectar. I've tasted and purchased this wine on many occasions and is for sure one of my go-to labels. Year after year, it's a well-made wine. 90 Points
Cold Heaven Viognier 2009 [Sta. Rita Hills, CA $24] Wet-river stone, a bit restrained, with stone-fruit blossoms, juicy citrus, and white peach notes. I've had this wine a few times, and for folks who like the "dry" approach this would be an excellent choice, look for the blue label. 89 Points
Les Jamelles Viognier 2007 [Languedoc-Roussillon, Vin de Pays d'Oc France $10] I uncorked this bottle just a couple of nights ago, it delivered nicely for the meager price. In the glass, you have a lovely pale gold color core and a watery rim. Nose: A rich, intensely aromatic wine, with lots of characteristic fruity scents, and typical varietal aromas, such as apricots and fresh white peaches a small bit of white pepper. This wine represents a great value. 87 Points
Fess Parker Viognier 2008 [Santa Barbara, CA $20] Fess Parker Viognier's like many others displays excellent fruit focus, offering peach, apricot, and pear note that are ripe and well-structured, with a supple texture. I've had this wine also on many occasions; folks this wine is a tasty New World style Viognier. 90 Points
Serving Tips: I recommend sipping and slurping these wines chilled, but not too cold. Otherwise, you'll lock in many of the beautiful perfume-like aromas wanting to escape from the swirl of the glass. I'm thinking about 58 to 60 degrees would be perfect. In my opinion; serving this wine too warm will dull the experience considerably.
From the wonderful folks at Wine Dine TV, I present to you the Viognier as the word of the day. Until next time, sip long and prosper cheers!