Singing the Praises of Viognier


Back in October, I met up with Jill (from That Wine Nerd) to taste the first vintages from City & Country Winery, and during the tasting I mentioned to her that my favourite grape is Viognier. Reader, I was not ready for the shock and horror that she displayed at my proclamation! Instantly she needed to know why, of all grapes, I’d choose Viognier. (For reference, her favourite grape is Cabernet Franc, so we have incredibly different palates.)

To me, Viognier tastes like summertime, and home. Growing up in Victoria, our backyard had grapevines covering one of the fences. It was there when we moved in, and it’s still there—I may have poked my head over the fence a few years ago to see what my beloved childhood yard now looks like. I may have grabbed a bunch of grapes so that I could figure out what they were…minor trespassing and theft aside, it turns out that I had been eating Viognier grapes for years, unbeknownst to any of us. We didn’t tend them, and my friends and I ate them whenever there were enough to eat, so my love for the grape has it’s roots in my childhood. And we all know how strong childhood memories can be!

Viognier is not a simple, laid back grape; it’s a powerhouse of flavour and weight on your palate, and it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s a very floral wine, all honeysuckle and white flowers and maybe some rose petals, balanced with fruity tones like tangerine, peach, maybe mango. It’s a creamy wine, owing to the malolactic fermentation that it undergoes before aging and bottling, and it can have a light spice to it from oaking.

Basically, Viognier is the perfumey cousin to Chardonnay that sometimes has a bit of bitterness to ground it. It’s usually lighter in acidity to Chardonnay, and the main calling card of Viognier is the slightly oily sensation that you get on the tongue when you drink it. Like I said—it’s not for everyone.

Although it’s one of the main grapes grown in the Rhone Valley, for the French Condrieu wine, my favourites come from the Okanagan Valley (hi, Liquidity Winery). The hot summers that they get add more fruitiness to the wine, and it usually cuts out the bitterness as well. It’s still perfumey as hell, but a bit more approachable than what you’ll get from France.

It’s a weird choice for a favourite, but I’m a weird lass.

Ashley Fisher

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