FOR THE LOVE OF VIOGNIER
I fell in love with Viognier in the late 90’s when a bottle from Millton Vineyards in Gisborne came my way. The flower shop nose; the plush tropical fruits on the palate and the slippery, lightly oily mouthfeel was unforgettable and ,twenty years later, Viognier still regularly features in my year round play list.
Viognier initially made its mark in the Condrieu appellation in France’s northern Rhone Valley but it was an Australian, Robert Hill-Smith from Yalumba, who is credited with saving Viognier from becoming an oddity and taking the variety to a wider global audience. We have a lot to thank him for. Viognier (pron. vee-YOHN-yay) is a versatile grape that makes excellent wine in its own right but has quite magical properties when blended with other varieties – both red and white.
Most of our domestic production is centred here in Hawke’s Bay and we are blessed with many producers doing great things with Viognier - Elephant Hill, Te Mata Estate and Petane Station spring to mind. A number of local producers also blend small percentages of Viognier into their Syrah releases; a tiny 2-3% Viognier addition can give Syrah a floral lift on the nose and a lovely unctuous texture on the palate.
Viognier also adds both tropical fruit flavours and a silky roundness when blended or co-fermented with white wines. I’ll be surprised if we don’t start seeing more Chardonnay Viognier blends in our local market. It seems like a match made in heaven to me.
Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2018 - South Australia
Available from $10.99
This is easily the best value Viognier in the world, and gets my vote as the best quaffing white wine available in the New Zealand market. On the nose it’s all orange blossom and citrus and the palate shows perfectly pitched mouthfeel and tangy dry apricot flavours. It’s a year round constant in our family fridge.
Te Awanga Estate One Off Double Happy Chardonnay Viognier 2018 – Hawkes Bay
Available from $24.99
An exciting release from Rod McDonald’s hugely successful One Off small batch winemaking project. This wine overlays Chardonnay’s natural mid-palate weight with ethereal flavours of tropical fruits from the Viognier component. This is pretty wine that shows a delightfully rich and juicy texture and underlying power.
Langmeil Hangin’ Snakes Shiraz Viognier 2016 – Barossa, Australia
Available from $29.99
A powerhouse co-fermentation of 96% Shiraz with 4% Viognier. This is a glowing example of how Viognier can add lifted florals on the nose and a lovely glycerol aspect to the palate without undermining the strength and robust nature of Barossa Shiraz. Immediately attractive wine with good mid-term cellaring ability.