Old World vs. New World Round Seven: Viognier!

In a vinous twist of fate, I put off researching this article to focus on studying for a test. Naturally, the first question on the test wanted a deep dive into Viognier . Fortunately, the actual studying supplied me with this information. But I’m betting you don’t want the glorious details of whether Viognier is an early or late bloomer (trick question it’s mid-ripening!), if it takes well to oak (yup!) or what soils it thrives in. Actually, I will tell you that in the section on Condrieu because you never know when you will need to explain what arzelle is. Oh! Important fact. It is pronounced vee-own-YAY. Yay. It has a parent-offspring relationship with Mondeuse Blanche , meaning we don’t know who begat who. Remember the song “I’m My Own Grandpa”? You’re not. You’re just having a Viognier day. Fun fact: it also may be related to Freisa , which is offspring of Nebbiolo , making it a cousin. Is that fact actually fun? I’m not sure, I’m jaded by studying for a test that made me know what arzelle is. These days Viognier has been blooming up its blowsy self everywhere from its homeland of France to California. It also makes appearances in Washington, Australia and Virgina. I tasted a bunch of examples and for your sake decided to focus on France, California, and Virginia where I can’t help but think it became Virginia’s signature grape because the alliteration of Virginia Viognier is sexy. Or at least catchy. Nearly extinct in the 60’s, in the height of the Rhône Rangers planting Rhône varieties in California, Viognier came back into fashion. And why not? It is a rather golden wine, in color and spirit. It will be a full-bodied beast, most likely dry but the texture and body may lead you to find it a tad sweet. There will be orange blossoms and apricots and honeydew and honeysuckle. And there’s something herbal about it. At least to me it has a hint of bitter. The acid will be on the lower side and the alcohol on the higher side i.e. if not handled well it can be a flabby flask-filler (see what I mean about alliteration?) and wholly unsatisfactory to drink. But picked at the right time and treated well—which may include oak!—Viognier can be fantastic. Oh! And shower Viognier? See my conclusions. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ CALIFORNIA Oddly, many of the California Viogniers seemed more Old World in approach. Or at least I encountered less New World oak flex, and more acid and striving for balance. I actually had to narrow down my favorites considerably. Darioush Possibly the acme of Viognier. I have to say this was my favorite. But WOW. It has the body and power of an Ailey dancer with the grace and personality of…well Ailey dancers have that too. Can you tell I’m an Alvin Ailey nut? Well I’m also now a Darioush nut. Oh you wanted the flavor? White peach soup garnished with the crispest and coldest honeydew shards sipped alternately from clay pots and tiny teacups in a damp sunrise dawn in a mystical meadow. Zaca Mesa There’s a touch of savor to this dry yet round wine, in the way that a sweet wine rolls in your mouth. Except this is not sweet. I got apples, pears, and a retention of a vibrancy j’adore. Is it wrong to say I loved it because I wouldn’t have known it was Viognier? VIRGINIA Aside from alliteration, Viognier is possibly also a star in Virginia because it has the thick skin to stand up to the state’s humidity. So look for it—I must warn it is not so easy to locate—but worth the quest. 2016 Barboursville Vineyards Reserve Viognier Stone fruit, buttery, daffodils, flowers! It is as light and zippy as the Virginia reel danced by hipsters in Highland Park, which is a real thing I’ve taken part in in Los Angeles. And being as such when I ordered, tasted and adored this winery’s offering, I was not amazed to find out it was in fact the same winery I had tasted years ago. Barboursville does consistently good work year after year! FRANCE Condrieu and Chateau Grillet are where this is made for the most part, and like a good neighbor I tested a whole lot of these for you. Actually I’d be either the neighbor you’d hate for drinking your wine, or love for making you cookies and dog/cat sitting for a small fee plus your animal’s undying love. Sorry, been having the pet version of a biological clock ticking. Oh and that arzelle soil? It’s decomposed mica. The more you know. 2017 Guigal Condrieu 100% new oak babieeeeee! It smelled flinty like Chardonnay and tasted buttery and oaky also like Chardonnay but sans the acid and with a whiff of distinct floral aromas. I liked it and I don’t normally go for oak. So if you do you may just go wild for this wine. 2016 Christophe Pichon Condrieu If there is such a thing as Christmas in rich Burgundy, this is that. This Condrieu has that marvelous thing I can only call…gas? Flint? On the nose I smell a lot that would make me think Burgundy. It has a well-balanced level of luxury level oak (actually only 30% new) and RICH AF semi-tropical notes slow-dancing with allspice n’ pumpkin pie spice, and this wine turned me off at first then enticed me more with each sip. So who got my love? Who won this ongoing battle? In all honesty, I gotta say California is killing the game. I will also say Viognier is a grape difficult to handle and to some extent you get what you pay for. Don’t be afraid to spend on this. And at long last I know you want to know which Viognier I’d lather up with a flute of. I am into the Virginia Viognier. VV forever. And it makes sense that a humid state could fulfill my need for a silky shower sip. I call it the VV in the SSS. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Summer Cocktails: Sparkling not Spritzing Up Your Life Old World vs. New World Round Six: Syrah! May Day! May Day! Emergency Drinks in Dire Straits Pink Wine, Pink Wine Everywhere Seder Sips Old World vs. New World Round Five: Zinfandel! But Is It Vegan? Classic Pairings for the Veggie Soul: Pairing Five You can also listen to Ellen's podcast with Shaughn Buchholz, The Wine Situation here .

Darioush

Signature Napa Valley Viognier 2018

This is spectacular. This receives my highest accolades. Not just for being a good Viognier but for being a spectacular wine all over. Melons and grass and white peach sprinkled with dreamy flowers. This has heft at the same moment as making me feel light and happy and conjuring visions of skipping through dewy lawns. Power and a svelte physique. As I‘d aspire for but drinking this wine is a grand facsimile. — a month ago

Aaron, Severn and 22 others liked this
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

Thank you @Trixie ! You are very kind😊
Shawn Thompson

Shawn Thompson

Great review! I think I would enjoy this wine very much. Cheers 🍷
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

Thanks @Shawn Thompson ! I’d seek this out. It’s so excellent. I’m hoping to try more of their wines in the future!

Barboursville Vineyards

Reserve Virginia Viognier 2014

Normally I'm not a Viognier person but the perfumes in this are understated and I taste more nectarines and white flowers. And maybe honeysuckle. It's got a nice filler body for a white without getting too much on the waxy side. Quite pleasant if not too complex for a Sunday evening — 2 years ago

Trixie, Paul and 14 others liked this
James Cahill

James Cahill

I like what Barboursville is doing to raise Virginia's wine game!

Xavier Gerard

Marmouzin Condrieu Viognier 2014

My wine firsts abound. As you can see in the picture I’m enchanted. This is hauntingly elegant. Sweet orange, honeysuckle and lemon yogurt meet in the ring. Spoiler alert there will be no victor as all agree to play peacefully and take turns sparring with my taste buds. There is enough acid in this to keep everything on its toes. — a year ago

Severn, Paul and 37 others liked this
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@"Odedi" @Kyle Groombridge @Eric Bass i gotta confess I’ve been a Zalto (not the glass in the pic)loyalist since investing in their Burg glasses but next time I have some spending money I’ll look into riedel:)
TheSkip

TheSkip

I like my zalto better than my Reidel.

Jean-Luc Colombo

La Redonne Côtes du Rhône White Rhone Blend 2016

Ohhhhh blendy blend. I mean this is mostly Viognier but that saucy Roussanne kicks in with its sense of at least a modicum of balance that is well-employed. Down with this Viognier-strong blend. It says: random herbs, sprinkles of cinnamon bark shards and canned tangerine all...in a gelatine mold? I’m not sure (having not eaten gelatin since before vegetarian days) but something sorta unctuous but fresh, ripe but..also new. I’ll just chill here happily with the bottle. But I should probably go to bed. — a month ago

Paul, Aaron and 13 others liked this

E. Guigal

Condrieu Viognier 2017

Oak lovers, this Condrieu is for you. 100% new oak but shockingly well integrated. This is the softest and butteriest of the bunch. Personally I maybe wouldn’t choose it but I can think of a good many of my friends who would love it. And it’s not bad for a change! — a month ago

Sharon, David and 15 others liked this
Shawn Thompson

Shawn Thompson

I appreciate your diplomacy in judging its oakiness. I think I’d enjoy. Cheers 🍷
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Shawn Thompson I do try to keep an open mind about things I know are personal quirks! Give it a try and tell me what you think!

Tenshen

Central Coast White Blend

Another @Paul Treadway Huntington Beacher Bum pick. Scrumptious. So damn scrumptious. A bit fleshy but it almost echoes the whisky I tried last night—a viognier-based blend it is richhhhhh. But was picked early enough that there is a tasty acid level and it is all tangerines and honeysuckle salad with an apple cider vinegar dressing. Refreshing and richhhhhh. Lushness delivered on a saber. I usually despise California viognier but I like this blend. Direly need to try their Rhône variety rosé and red. Santa Barbera Rhône has been my bag recently and not just cause TOP wine’s Elena is on my podcast soon bwahaha — a year ago

Serge, Paul and 13 others liked this

Domaine Christophe Pichon

Condrieu Viognier 2016

On the nose it’s Burgundy meets baking club. On the tongue it is pure luxury, the type that at first taste kinda turned me off but only because I’m not that much of an oak lover. But this wine is friggin’ fantastic. It lasts in the glass and I keep going back for more. It has the ability to be fresh and solidly traditional at the same time. One of the old souls? Don’t know if I’d go that far but I will continue to drink the insert-fave-expletive outta this. — a month ago

Paul, Eric and 15 others liked this
Trixie

Trixie

Nice descriptive review! Old souls have a depth about them that nouveau is lacking.🥂
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Trixie thanks! Yes, this wine was somewhere between old soul and fresh face and that made it even more endearing

Sean Thackrey

Lyra Noble Vineyard Viognier 2013

As soon as I tasted the Bush song “Glycerine” started rambling through my head. Like the song this wine has staying power and is somewhat maudlin. A mix of viscous body, overripe apricots and bitter greens. Maybe I am the bittersweet one today. I like the balance in this golden guy though. — a month ago

Shawn, Severn and 31 others liked this
Robert Howey

Robert Howey

Best use of ‘maudlin’ in a wine review. EVER.
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Robert Howey thank you! Cheers:)