Viognier doesn’t get much attention from many people, having been overshadowed by its more familiar international cousins like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This is precisely why I chose to acquire a bottle for experimentation. If we only choose the varietals that are commonly available our palates will become disinterested and wines may seem more homogenised. At the same time, Viognier has not been entirely ignored – there are some very premium examples being produced in France, in the Northern Rhône region of Condrieu. However I will stay closer to home with this instance from Orange.
- Clarity: Clear
- Intensity: Pale
- Colour: Gold
- Condition: Clean
- Intensity: Pronounced
- Development: Youthful
- Sweetness: Dry
- Acidity: High
- Alcohol: Medium+
- Body: Medium+
- Flavor Intensity: Medium+
- Finish: Medium+
- Quality: Very Good
- Readiness/Cellaring: Drink now, not intended for ageing
- Identity: Australia / Orange / Viognier
- Price: High-priced (~$25)
- Long, thin tears
- Aromas of white peach, green apple, lanolin, orange peel.
- Flavours of white peach, lemon curd, almond peel, vanillan oak, walnut
- Good cleansing acid
- Oily texture clinging to palate
- Probably best served as an aperitif
- Flavours more expressive as it warms up
- Reminiscent of a dry sherry
Perhaps another reason for Viognier’s lack of attention is due to how difficult it is to cultivate good quality fruit from it. It needs warm to hot conditions to ripen properly, but it has a tendency to build up sugar levels before its delicate fruit profile has a chance to emerge. More sugar translates to higher alcohol, and a wine that is hot yet lacking fruit will seem unbalanced.
Despite my best efforts I couldn’t find any detailed winemaker notes for this wine, so the following is my reasoning process and my best, rational guess as to the story of this wine. The Orange region has a cool to warm climate, which may have slowed down sugar accumulation but could have presented challenges to ripening. The lemon curd and walnut flavours suggests the use of malolactic fermentation and oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation refers to the use of bacteria to convert the sharper malic acids (usually associated with green apple flavours) into softer lactic acids (associated with milk and cream). This would have contributed to the flavour and slightly oily texture that I noted.
For some reason I found this wine to be reminiscent of a Fino, dry sherry, when the fruit profile soon gave way to a cloying texture with notes of almond and walnuts. All that was missing was a dash of sea spray and I would have been completely thrown off. For this reason I noted that this would be an ideal aperitif wine, something nice and dry to whet the appetite before a meal.
My final note is specific to the age and cellaring potential of the wine. On the nose I noted it was “Youthful” and yet in the end I decided it was only suitable to “Drink now; not intended for ageing”. Despite 4-5 years in the bottle this wine has still retained its fruit and expressed some interesting secondary characters (curd and oak). This is probably also thanks to its more reliable screwcap seal. However I would expect the fruit to promptly disappear if we waited for much longer, leaving only tertiary ageing characters which, while not completely unwelcome, would defeat it’s original purpose of being a textured, complex, and aromatic white wine.
Read more: Rational Wine Experiment – The Price Tasting