Sunday, July 20, 2008

Can you say Viognier?

Can you say Viognier?
While Chardonnay is still the most popular white wine in the U.S., savvy wine drinkers are starting to catch on that it is not the only great white wine. Many people are trying other white varietals, including Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio in Italy). But along with these interesting whites, save room for one of the hottest white wines on the scene. Viognier (vee-yoh-N’YAY) has the rich “mouth feel” of Chardonnay, but a totally different flavor profile, with sexy aromas of lychee and flavors of peach and lime. Viognier is an unusual grape from France’s Rhône Valley, that has grown in popularity with the “Anything But Chardonnay” crowd.

Some of America’s most interesting Viognier made its way to California in a strange way. While Viognier has been grown in California in small quantities since the late 1980s, Michael David’s Incognito white wine was awarded the title "Best Rhone in the World" in 2000, as a Roussanne, another white Rhone grape. However, using DNA testing, experts at U.C. Davis later determined that this grape was a rare clone of Viognier, and not a Roussanne after all.

Michael David’s Incognito Viognier 2006 is a rich, ripe wine filled with tropical flavors and has the deliciously cleansing bitter-lime finish that is characteristic of the Viognier grape. Think of Incognito Viognier’s flavors as a combination of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat. It makes a marvelous aperitif wine to sip by the pool, and is a great compliment to Asian food. Viognier can also can stand up beautifully to seafood in butter and cream sauces.

Region: Lodi
Price: about $15


Unknown said...

When I think of Viognier, I do not think of California per se.

Do you tend to focus on California wine only?



The Sommeliere said...

Michael, I will be writing about the granddaddy of all Viognier, Condrieu, in a future post.

Condrieu, as you know, is the Rhone's most celebrated white wine, at least for me. Some people prefer Marsanne or Roussanne, the OTHER white grapes from the N. Rhone.

So, just as with Champagne, sparkling wine that comes from outside of the Champagne region, any Viognier that is grown outside of Condrieu is called Viognier.

Unknown said...

My wife is very fond of Duet a very inexpensive Chardonnay/Vognier blend from Latour. She prefers the French whites because they aren't as oakey as the Californias. It's only 7 buck a bottle at Trader Joes'.