Viognier – who would have thunk?
It’s either a half sibling or a grandparent to Syrah.
It’s related to Freisia, which means it’s also distantly related to Nebbiolo.
Fifty years ago, there were only 14 ha planted of this variety in Condrieu AC and at Chateau Grillet in Northern Rhone’s Cote Rotie. However, now it’s literally planted everywhere in the world.
Most is planted in France (4300 ha), but there is actually 93 ha in Virginia where it’s the state grape. Seriously.
Heady, aromatic and fuller bodied, this white variety’s homeland is the Northern Rhone valley. It’s early budding and risks spring frosts but is mid-ripening. It has long and compact bunches with small, thick-skinned berries that offer it good resistance from diseases such as botrytis (bunch rot).
In addition to making 100% varietal wines, it may also be added to and co-fermented with Syrah (5-20%) for the purpose of stabilizing colour and adding perfume. In France, this is legal in Cotes du Rhone, Cotes du Rhone Villages and Lirac (but it’s not allowed in Chateauneuf du Pape, St. Joseph, Hermitage or Crozes Hermitages). Apparently there’s no real reason for this – the appellations probably just followed the status quo of the day when they decided not to allow it.
This particular example is from British Columbia – where according to last count there is about 67 ha planted.
It is clear and bright, pale lemon yellow with legs. On the nose it’s clean and youthful with medium intensity, and aromas of stone fruit, light wood, honey and minerality.
The palate is dry with medium acidity, medium alcohol, medium plus body and medium plus intensity, flavours of peach, nectarine and ripe apricot, light lemon balm, wet rocks, acacia, honeysuckle and almond. The finish is medium plus.
This is WSET ‘Very Good’ wine – nicely balanced and concentrated fruit and acidity, lovely length and mouthfeel. So carefully put together and with the deftness of wood treatment (aged for 7 months in second fill and neutral French oak barriques).