No wine I produce elicits stronger reactions, at mere mention, than does Viognier. (And keep in mind that I'm on a personal mission to persuade wine drinkers to overcome their – sometimes Sideways-inspired, often bad example-caused – hatred of Merlot). No, it's while pouring my Yakima-grown version of the infamous northern Rhone white wine that I hear such preemptive warnings as "I can't stand Viognier – it's so flabby and smells like my aunt's perfume." However, equally as many folks are champing at the bit to taste the floral, citrusy, apricot-noted wine.
In fairness, Viognier can be made in a range of styles, from light and fruity to bold and creamy. Versions from Condrieu can see some new oak and be densely packed, while our Viognier is fermented entirely in stainless steel and is light on its feet. Also, I like to harvest on the early side to retain some energy and freshness. (I think it's the perfect summertime wine!) So, given these different versions, it’s not surprising that feelings about Viognier can be extreme.
Yet, despite the range of styles, there are some common threads running through Viognier. Generally, it tends to have lower acid and a fuller mouthfeel than most other white wines, as it usually goes through malolactic fermentation. The aromatics almost always include floral notes of honeysuckle, citrus aromas of clementine, and stone fruit aromas of peach and apricot. This seductive nose is what I love most about Viognier. Interestingly, these floral and fruity notes offer a great counterpoint to Syrah's meaty, peppery aromas, and this is partly the reason that Syrah (such as our "Vamp" Syrah) is sometimes co-fermented with some Viognier (more on this and other reasons for co-fermentation in a later blog).
As we move into the summer months, I plan to try as many versions of Viognier as I can get my hands on, and I encourage all white wine lovers to do the same. When you find a good one, it can be so thrilling that you’ll wonder why you haven’t been drinking more Viognier.