So through sheer procrastination, I managed to miss posting something for this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday. No, it’s not like I didn’t find the right wine, and it’s not as if I didn’t drink it. I drank it, photographed it and then didn’t blog about it! Mea culpa. Host Beau of Basic Juice declared the theme to be off-dry wines and I was actually rather excited, as my favourite white wines tend to be off-dry: Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer and so forth. I dug around in our
cellar winerack and found a 2002 Yalumba Viognier that looked just about ready to drink and chilled it while making dinner.
Now Viognier is a well-travelled grape. It is believed to come originally from Dalmatia but was spread around Europe by the Romans, coming to rest in what is usually considered to be its home – the Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet appellations in the northern Rhone. In fact, it is the only grape allowed in these appellations, but it is also often found blended with syrah in Cote Rotie wines. It is is currently enjoying increasing popularity around the world, but this wasn’t always the case. In the late 1960s, less than 35 acres of Viognier remained planted in all of France. By comparison, at the end of 2002 there were 2,001 acres of Viognier planted in California alone! The reason for its slump in popularity is that it is a somewhat tricky grape to grow. For a start, it is shy-bearing and although tolerant of drought, it easily becomes infected with powdery mildew in damp or humid climates. The grapes also need to be harvested at peak ripeness in order for the resulting wines to show the proper varietal characteristics, which means greater risk to the grower as last-minute adverse weather can wipe out a crop. All these factors unfortunately combine to make Viognier wines that bit more expensive than most, but at their best they are well worth it.
So what are Viognier’s proper varietal characteristics? Well, the wines at their best are known for their low acid and depth of flavour, along the same heady, perfumed lines as Gewurztraminer. These flavours can run to soft fruits like apricots and also honey and blossoms. The wines are made in an off-dry style, though, and are never cloying or sweet, but rather fruity with a creamy mouthfeel. In fact, if you are fed up with Chardonnays but can’t face bone dry and austere whites, this is a very desirable alternative (which is probably one of the reasons for its renewed popularity!!).
My bottle of 2002 Yalumba Viognier was from South Australia. Yalumba is (according to their label) the oldest family-owned vineyard in Australia. Founded in 1849 by English brewer Samuel Smith on the outskirts of Angaston, the name means “all the land around” in the aboriginal language. The Yalumba website has lots of rather charming historical detail about Samuel as well as successive generations who have farmed the land. Knowing that this was likely to be a big white, I paired it with grilled pork chops with a pesto and pecorino crust, served with brown rice and (very unseasonal, mea culpa, mea culpa!) Brussels sprouts. Pork chops were spread generously with pesto and topped with shavings of pecorino before being oven-baked at 180C for about 30 mins under tinfoil and then finished under the grill.. Mmmmm! The wine stood up very well to the flavours – I’d say the pairing worked! Here are my tasting notes:
C – lovely pale gold, pretty deep for a white. Looks promising!
N – Nick had chilled the poor thing to within an inch of its life, so the nose was very very shy. If anything, it smelt of honey.
P – Oh my. The palate was a great big fruit salad without being sickly sweet. I got fresh pink grapefruit, lots of apricots and touches of tropical lychees. Full bodied with a definite creamy mouthfeel – I’d guess malolactic fermentation took place. The wine had what I’d describe as a perfect bell-curve of a palate – a taste that grows in your mouth to a crescendo and then very gradually tails off to a long finish. And a long finish it certainly had, which is always a recommendation in my book. I can’t remember what we paid for it but I doubt it was more than about £6, probably from Majestic. Definitely worth the money. I’d give it 15 out of 20.