Looking closely at grape varieties you may learn a lot. That’ s what we did with VIOGNIER at the beginning of 2015. The variety almost had disappeared in the sixties (there were barely 8 hectares left in 1965), but nowadays it guarantees for international reputation of the wines of CONDRIEU, with more than 100 hectares of vines planted on steep terraces and slopes of this AOC in the northern Rhone Valley. Thanks to its flavours, this variety has gradually conquered the world. Today it occurs frequently in French Mediterranean vineyards, as well as in CALIFORNIA and in AUSTRALIA. And it may also be found in CAHORS, where Pascal and Jean-Marc Verhaeghe cultivate one hectare of this Rhone varietal (under the label IGP du Lot), simply because they love its taste.
Generally considered as being intensely floral and fruity (and unfortunately often reduced to the scent of “apricot” as a single sign of recognition), it is also said to be fat, large and smooth. Rather appealing as a promise. But this is also where problems may arise: too much fat, too large, too thick... Maturity and balance of both plants and grapes are to be monitored closely. It is therefore not surprising to meet Viognier regularly in blends rather than bottled as a single varietal wine. It’s a great teammate for grapes like white GRENACHE, CLAIRETTE and MARSANNE, but it is also good company with CHARDONNAY or CHENIN, as frequently shown in so called “new world wines”. The latter fromfrom the point of view of the “old world countries” of course.
Personally, I often compared VIOGNIER to MOURVÈDRE. Not in with respect to the taste, but rather on a agricultural level: both are identified as high quality grapes all over the world, but you’d better think twice before planting those varieties on the first available plot. If the vines find their balance with a terroir, the grapes are very good and the wine being made of it can be REALLY GREAT. But if it growths without balance, the power of VIOGNIER and the tannic structure of MOURVÈDRE may cause you problems for decades...