On Monday 16th May the WING group met to taste Viognier, led by Matt and Kathryn.

I expect you all know the Viognier story by now… Fifty years ago there were only 34 acres in the world, planted in the Northern Rhone… now there are a thousand times that. It still has the problem that limited its popularity – it needs a long warm growing season to develop character, but overdo it and the wine lacks acidity and can “fall over” into a caricature of itself  – heady perfume, high alcohol and very flabby…  Get it right (granite soil can help) and the perfume is framed by some mineral and acidity making it seem ethereal…

We tasted examples from Australia, California, the upper Loire, Portugal and two from Northern Rhone.

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Here are my notes:

TAHBILK VIOGNIER (NAGAMBIE LAKES) 2015
Located in  Central Victoria, near the Gouldburn River, Tahbilk is well known for Marsanne (they make 10 different Cuvées). This wine has a round simple nose – more peach than apricot, with a slightly green fruit prickle. The palate has a slightly malic touch to the light acid and the fruit is on the soft side, there is a spice warmth to the wine which is “cut off” rather quickly…

McMANIS FAMILY VIOGNIER 2013
This is from Lodi in California, and seems a touch darker in colour. Nose has an oily and nutty attack, with honey and sweetcorn appearing! Palate is soft with a spicy warmth again – more ginger this time… then a salty twist (which lifts the wine) and an oily finish…

VIOGNIER “DE BUTTE EN BLANC” PAYS D’URFE (DOMAINE SEROL) 2015
Pays D’Urfé is in the upper Loire, straddling the Departments of Loire, Puy-de-Dôme and Allier, about 60 miles West (and a little North) of Lyon. The nose is rather restrained with light floral, herbal and – later – clementine notes. Palate has lifting acidity mineral hints underpinning the, still warm but more balanced, aromatic fruit. This is structured more like a Suavignon Blanc with Viognier (apricot, greengage…) twists… Rather enjoyable

TERRA D’ALTER VIOGNIER “TELHAS” 2012
This has a greener colour, immediate oak, some tropical fruits, honey and nuts. Palate follows closely with a woody, almost tannic and alcohol warmth. There is some citric lift but this is big wine, put together like a big Chardonnay, and the weight masks the grape IMO.

COLLINES RHODANIENNES ‘LE PIED DE SAMSON’ (DOMAINE GEORGES VERNAY) 2014
This comes from very near Condrieu, but higher up at 300m. This has a complex nose with the apricot slightly dried and fresh greengage and a warm – orange – citric note. Palate has a dry overall resolution but rich fruit and great – slightly saline – mineral acid, which frames the fruit very well. There is creamy texture and rich fruit well held in check. Clearly Viognier but light, clean and complex… my favourite!

CONDRIEU ‘TERROIRS’ (DOMAINE MERLIN FRANCOIS) 2013
This has a quiet nose at first with aromatic apricot and peach breaking through. The palate has a supple acid structure supporting round fruit. This has good typicity, with the apricot flavours and richness supported by a sharp – perhaps flinty – mineral. Good – a well-made wine correctly representing the Appellation.

This was a very interesting tasting. Viognier is a very niche wine in my cellar, only rare occasions demand it and its quite hard to keep. This tasting well illustrated the steepness of the price / quality graph with the first 3 wines at £10 or £11, the next 2 in the mid £20s and the Condrieu: mid £30s. That said, the Condrieu was very typical – but for me the Pays D’Urfé and the Collines Rhodaniennes were the ‘finds’!

Thanks so much Kathryn and Matt!

Until next time…

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