One of the great stories of the past decade has been the renaissance of Viognier.
With new producers in the Rhône Valley as well as an explosion of producers from emerging regions like Virginia, Washington state and Paso Robles, all pushing for cleaner, purer expressions of the grape, consumers were offered exciting new alternatives to more familiar varieties. The response has been an resounding success.
With its flamboyant peach and floral aromatics, smooth texture and generally soft acidity, modern Viognier has struck a cord with consumers’ palates. If there is a hiccup to be found here, it’s the delicate balance of sweetness that many Viogniers need to balance out that faint edge of bitterness which comes with many of the wines.
Photo courtesy mswine via Flickr/CC
Viognier, like most aromatic white wines, is a rather phenolic grape and phenols can be bitter. Phenols also imbue a wine with richness and perfumes, so as winemakers push their wines to be more viscous and powerful in the mouth, they tend to also draw more phenols into their wines by extending skin contact during the fermentation process.
The touch of sweetness that many Viogniers posses helps to balance out that bitterness, though some wines show a bit too much sugar for my palate. While it can be a minor issue it’s one worth mentioning, particularly since so many producers seem to have found their sweet spot today, producing wines that are both aromatic and balanced if a little less oily and bitter than in years past.
I was able to taste quite a few Virginian Viognier during my visit there last year. While none were included in my recent tasting of the variety, I can attest to the mighty fine quality of the region’s efforts. Producers such as Blenheim, Veritas and Horton are all putting out wines that deserve to be noticed. I hope to report on additional Virginian, and for that matter Texan, Viogniers in the months and years to come, but today let’s take a look at some recently tasted examples from around the globe.