OVER THE BARREL | Viognier is an aromatic white grape variety known for producing textured white wines with prominent stone-fruit flavours. Aroma wise, these wines can be very floral, showing lavender like aromas that are quite honeyed in sweeter examples.
Over the Barrel is back! This year the focus of the column will be on some varietals but also the general state of the South African wine industry. Wine writers, Cape Wine Masters, auctions and the wine regions of South Africa will be discussed in earnest to make the South African community in the UK aware of what is going on and what people are saying about our favourite tipples! Enjoy!
We start this year with Viognier.
The Viognier grape use to have a difficult time. Its traditional home of the Northern Rhone was the biggest producer and with a price tag (in the shape of Condrieu) that put a lot of consumers off. Not so anymore.
Viognier is an aromatic white grape variety known for producing textured white wines with prominent stone-fruit flavours. Aroma wise, these wines can be very floral, showing lavender like aromas that are quite honeyed in sweeter examples. Apricots are the variety’s classic flavour association all over the world, often with a richness that can be interpreted as ripe peaches.
In South Africa the Viognier varietal typically shows tinned peaches, marshmallows, apricots with spicy and creamy notes and textures.
Viognier was once fairly common but in 1965, the grape was almost extinct when there were only eight acres in Northern RhÃ´ne. The popularity and price of the wine has risen, and the number of plantings have increased.
As Bruce Jack, Accolade’s chief winemaker in South Africa, said recently at the AfrAsia Bank Cape Wine Auction: â€œViognier clones have shown more promise in South Africa than many parts of Australia, where it initially found a New World home after being imported from France.”
For me the best examples of South African Viognier go exceptionally well with food. Choose wisely though. Try it with mushroom dishes as well as grilled vegetables (oor die kole is beter!).
Three Viogniers to look out for:
The Foundry Viognier 2012, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Well balanced with light oak on the nose and intense aromas of peaches with strong floral notes. Fresh flavours of naartjies and young, stony apricots. The finish is long and lemony. Yum.
Graham Beck Viognier 2013, Robertson, South Africa
A restrained nose for a Viognier. Riper melon and apricot. Good acidity and fruity, ripe apricot on the palate. Crisp finish with fruitiness lingering alongside balanced acidity.
Spice Route Viognier 2012, Swartland, South Africa
Lovely spiciness and oak on the nose. There is a definite correlation with PEACH MELBA here! Good richness combined with a very vibrant freshness. Great example of what South African Viognier is all about.