Viognier, an aromatic white grape that makes full bodied, rich and fruity wines throughout the world has become very fashionable in the last decade or so. In its homeland, in the northern Rhone, it is responsible for the great white wines of the northern Rhone (Condrieu) but its fame has now spread further south to the Languedoc and to much of the New World. It is most appreciated for its very expressive aromas - apricot, honeysuckle, fruit blossom, musk and lily-of-the-valley, its creamy texture and its full body.
Almost extinct in the 1970s, it is one of the world’s most fashionable grapes and is planted from South Africa to California, from Argentina to New Zealand. Back in the Rhone Valley, it is often used to add fragrance and lightness to the great red Côte Rôties and for Côte du Rhone reds. It provides an excellent blending partner for the other two well-known Rhône white grapes – Marsanne and Roussanne. Low yielding and susceptible to disease, Viognier needs to be picked at exactly the right time. Picked too early it will lack aromatic expression; picked too late and it will lack acidity and have too high an alcohol level.
- 2015 Catalan EagleTerra Alta D.O.0.75l WhiteBio€8.70 €7.19Catalan Eagle white is a blend of 60% Garnacha Blanca, 25% Viognier and 15% Roussanne grapes, the two latter grape varieties originally coming from the Rhone. Catalan Eagle takes its name from the bird that soars above the nature reserve close to the 26 hectare organic vineyard in Terra Alta which is near Tarragona in southern Catalonia. This wine has an expressive nose of peaches, pears and grapefruit. On the palate there is minerality, fruit and some warm, spicy notes. Round and full on the palate this is an aromatic wine with good acidity and a rich texture. Enjoy with seafood and paella.
- Syrah Mâcon Lugny0.75l Red€9.60 €7.93The grapes for this magnificently juicy and ripe Syrah come from several locations ; a declassified vineyard near St. Joseph in the northern Rhône, parcels in the southern Rhone area of Vinsobres and from the Ardèche. 5% of Viognier is addded to the blend to give aromatic elegance to the wine. Made by Nicolas Jaboulet, this is a round, warm, yet fresh wine with lots of rich, grapey fruit, spices and power. A great wine for every day gatherings with a good pedigree.
- Côtes du Rhône Villages0.75l WhiteBio€13.10 €10.83A beautiful rich and satisfying white Rhône with an abiding freshness which makes the wine more elegant and livelier on the palate. Made from a blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc et Roussanne cultivated organically, this is a deeply satisfying wine with an expressive nose of lemons, melons and grapefruit, generous and round on the palate with ripe, sweet fruit lifted by good acidity and bite. The finish is silky and long with very persistent fruit flavours in the finish. There is less Viognier in the blend this year and such is the demand for this wine that the estate is doubling the surface of white grapes planted at Cassagnes.
- Le Pied de Samson (VI) IGP Collines Rhodaniennes0.75l White€25.49 €21.07Regional folklore tells of the giant Samson who put one foot on either bank of the Rhône so that he could bend down and quench his thirst. One of his giant footprints remains today in this granite vineyard in the Hautes Côtes and gives its name to this special cuvée. Made from 100% Viognier grapes grown above the Condrieu appellation at 300 metres, this is now considered outside of the A.O.C. hence the Vin de Pays denomination (IGP). Fermented and aged half in oak and half in stainless steel, this is a very expressive wine with aromas of peach stones, almonds and pink grapefruit. This is a pretty, juicy, vibrant wine to be enjoyed for the next 3-4 years.
- Les Terrasses de l'Empire (CO) Condrieu0.75l White€57.00 €47.11This lovely expression of ripe, fruity, peach scented Viognier is long, spicy and very fresh. The wine takes its name from the time when the Rhône river was the frontier between the Holy Roman Empire to the east and the Kingdom of France. The grapes come from a patchwork of small parcels on the steep hillsides of Condrieu. The wine is fermented and aged in oak for eight months on the fine lees. This is a beautifully balanced wine between its rich aromatic flavours of peach, honey and almond and its abiding fresh acidity. Drink now for the next five years.
- Les Chaillées de l'Enfer Condrieu0.75l White€80.01 €66.12Christine Vernay is the Queen of Condrieu and this famous wine comes from one of the top sites in the appellation. Produced from 100% Viognier grapes in the rugged, steep granite slopes of the two hectare vineyard. Facing south east, the L’Enfer (or Hell) referred to in the name is due to the rocky stone, the heat and the difficulty in cultivating vines here. The wine is aged on its lees for several months and aged in small oak barrels for up to a year and a half. Tasting this wine, expressive, beautiful aromas spring out of the glass: white flowers, pomegranate, spices, blood orange. I love the precision and the rich complexity with its delicious core of acidity, its length and minerality. Serve this wine with mushroom or vegetable risotto, grilled fish with a beurre blanc sauce, lobster or grilled vegetables.