International Viognier Day – how much do you know about this grape?

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The end of April saw the world celebrate International Viognier Day so we wanted to share our delicious range with you. Viognier [“Vee-own-yay”] is a full-bodied white wine that originated in southern France. Most loved for its perfumed aromas of peach, tangerine and honeysuckle, Viognier can also be oak-aged to add a rich creamy taste with hints of vanilla.

Depending on the producer and how it’s made, it will range in intensity from light and spritzy with a touch of bitterness to bold and creamy. If you like Chardonnay you’ll like the weight of Viognier and notice it’s often a little softer on acidity, a bit lighter and also more perfumed. On the palate, the wines are typically dry although some producers will make a slightly off-dry style that embellishes Viognier’s peachy aromas. Viognier wines are almost always noted for an oily sensation on the middle of the tongue which is a characteristic of wines made with this grape. The drier styles come across less fruity on the palate and deliver subtle bitterness almost like crunching into a fresh rose petal.

Generally speaking, there are 2 stylistic differences that winemakers choose between when producing Viognier: new oak ageing vs neutral / no oak ageing. New oak ageing delivers a richer creamier taste, lower acidity and aromas of clove, nutmeg and vanilla. Neutral and no oak ageing (made in Stainless steel) will deliver more floral and tropical fruit flavours in the wine while maintaining its acidity and often a subtle bitter note.

Viognier produces the best wines when it grows in sunny regions with temperatures moderated by cool nights or nearby bodies of water. The importance of cool weather is to maintain Viognier’s precious acidity. When seeking out fine Viognier wines you’ll notice these regional traits. Here’s a few of our different regions for you to discover:

 

Stephane Ogier, Viognier ‘de Rosine’ IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2018

A French white wine from Northern Rhône that’s made with 100% Viognier grapes. 

This fine 14 hectares estate is crafting some of the most spectacular wines in the Côte Rôtie appellation. After years of selling to négociants, namely Guigal and Chapoutier, Michel Ogier belatedly started bottling his own wines during the 1980s. His son, Stéphane, took over the reins of the domaine in 1997 and has been establishing a fine reputation based on his own merits. He is now considered one of the very greatest producers of Côte Rôtie. He works with tiny parcels of vines throughout Côte Rôtie, in the Côte Blonde, Brune and Côte Rosiers vineyards. His wines reflect authentic Côte Rôtie styling, but with an added element of modern polish. They are true to their terroirs, being vinified with either whole bunch or destemmed fermentation, depending on the particular terroir and vintage. In a move to clearly delineate quality, Stéphane has introduced new cuvées of Côte Rôtie that reflect a more Burgundian hierarchy: ‘village’, ‘Premier Cru’ equivalents and ‘Grand Cru’ equivalents, specifically Le Village, Réserve, Lancement, Belle Hélène and Côte Blonde.

All cuvées are individual, yet all exhibit the house style of freshness, purity and length, with an almost Burgundian feel thanks to their acidity and fine tannin structure. ‘Le Village’ originates both from younger vines and lesser terroirs located near the upper plateau; fashioned to be an earlier drinking, yet a classic Côte Rôtie. The ‘Réserve’ bottling is aimed at ‘Premier Cru’ quality, but is noticeably more concentrated and structured. It is a blend of several terroirs and has incredible complexity and length. Stéphane’s classic Viognier has hints of minerality, rich almost exotic white fruit, but with just enough freshness and judicious oak handling. The reds display attractive smoky aromas, juicy fruit and meatiness – trademarks of classic Northern Rhône.

 

Domaine Grand Veneur, Côtes du Rhône Blanc ‘Réserve’ 2020

A French white wine from Southern Rhône that blends Viognier with Clairette & Roussanne grapes and is also organic. 

Mathieu Jaume founded the domaine in 1826. Christophe and Sébastien Jaume have now taken over from their father Alain and have carefully expanded the domaine. Located in the commune of Orange and comprising 75 hectares of vines, it covers four different appellations: Châteauneuf du Pape, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Côtes du Rhône and Lirac.

As of 2012, the estate has been certified organic. The vineyards are planted with a mixture of Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Clairette, with some of the vines approaching 90 years of age. The terroir here is classic Châteauneuf, with a sub soil of marine sandstone covered by Alpine deluvium or galets roulés. The soils are cultivated by light ploughing and sustained by natural compost. Yields are low, or kept under control by green harvesting during the summer, which allows the Jaumes to be selective not only in terms of quantity, but also quality, by favouring those clusters which are best exposed.

Harvesting is carried out manually, whilst a triage in the vineyard earmarks the best grapes before they are transported to the winery, where the grapes are destemmed, lightly crushed and clarified by natural sedimentation. For the white grapes, the fermentation using wild yeasts is controlled at 18oC, in order to preserve the fresh aromatics.

The red grapes undergo a cold maceration before being fermented with wild yeasts at 28-32oC, with the objective of enriching the must with the right amount of aroma, colour and tannin. The vinification process lasts 18 to 20 days with regular pigeage. The wines are then matured in a combination of vats and oak casks for at least 18 months, with a final assemblage taking place in January.

The range is exceptional and equally superb in white as in red. ‘La Fontaine’ is consistently one of the best white Châteauneuf and ‘Les Origines’ delivers the appropriate class for a premium cuvée with many international accolades, spending 18 months in new oak. There is no weak wine here and the well-priced Côtes du Rhône is produced from a vineyard situated only metres away from the famous Château Beaucastel.

 

Grange des Rocs, Sauvignon Viognier IGP d’Oc 2020

A French white wine from the Languedoc that blends Viognier with Sauvignon Blanc grapes and is also vegan. 

Languedoc is the source of many great wines of true individuality, as well as some very mediocre offerings. The diversity of style, quality and price is, indeed, wide. Our own red and white wine selections from Grange des Rocs are special cuvées produced from carefully put together blends of the best local grapes, selected by us to reflect our house style and ethos. Winemaker Claude Serra is immensely well respected in the Languedoc region, acting as a consultant for several estates as well as producing wine at his own domaine. We work very closely with Claude in order to produce wines, which offer the best of the region, whilst also delivering great value and authenticity. Genuinely tempting wines that invite you to enjoy that second glass, but that still retain a distinct personality. The focus is fairly and squarely on the fruit, ensuring a true expression of the particular grape varieties in a harmonious marriage of flavours. Balance, too, is key, so ripeness, concentration and freshness will each play their part. Consistently good, notwithstanding the vagaries of the harvest, Grange des Rocs allows the customer to have confidence in every bottle, time after time.

Tasting Notes:

Pale yellow robe with straw yellow nuances. Brilliant and limpid colour. The nose is fresh with notes of peaches. Aromatic and fresh on the palate. Crisp and grassy finish.

 

Saronsberg Wines, Saronsberg Viognier Tulbagh 2017

A South African white wine from the Western Cape that’s made with 100% Viognier grapes.

Nestled at the foot of the mountain after which it is named, Saronsberg is a contemporary addition to the rich heritage of Tulbagh Valley, comprising 40 hectares of vines: two-thirds red, one-third white. Created by Nick van Huyssteen in 2002, Saronsberg is managed by winemaker Dewaldt Heyns and it is clear to see his love of Rhône winemaking styles in the two Shiraz-dominated wines under the ‘Artspace’ label, which are cracking value for the price. Dewaldt has worked in Sonoma, USA, and also in France, which he says broadened his horizons (he is a member of the prestigious Cape Wine Guild). This proved to be a winning combination, with Saronsberg performing constantly at the highest level, receiving numerous awards since its maiden vintage.

The Tulbagh region lies between three mountain ranges: the Witzenberg, the Obiqua and the Winterhoek. The only route that lies open is towards the sea, across the Breede Valley situated 80km off the Atlantic coast, with a continental climate of Mediterranean summers and cold, wet winters. Soils can be broadly classified into 3 categories depending on their location:

  1. Red/ yellow clay loam with some fine gravel on the slopes of the Saronsberg Mountain
  2. Deposited boulder beds and sandy-loam alluvial soils surrounding the Klein Berg River
  3. Mid-valley shales towards the centre of the Tulbagh Valley

The bulk of the vineyards are planted in the mid-valley medium deep soils that have developed from Malmesbury shale. The aspect is roughly east, with an average height of 160-185m. The rainfall is 450-550mm per year (June to September). The general wind direction is south easterly, providing a cooling effect in the afternoons.

All wine grapes are handpicked in the early morning, then cooled to 4°C. A majority of the wines are Bunch sorted, destemmed & berry sorted on vibration tables (unless stated otherwise).

Vines on partially weathered shale as well as red/ yellow clay-loam soils. Grapes pressed whole-bunch. Only 1st light pressings are used. Juice settled at 5°C for 48 hrs, then racked. 25% portion undergoes wild fermentation with balance inoculated with cultured yeast in 1/3 each of 1st, 2nd and 3rd fill 500L Allier French oak barrels. Fermentation continues for 21 days on average at temperatures ranging between 13°C and 18°C. Aged on fine lees with malolactic fermentation prevented to preserve finer flavours. Barrel maturation 11 mths, bottled with a fine sheet filtration.

Tasting Notes:

This wine is the ideal accompaniment to foods with subtle spicy aromas and flavours. Although it spent 11 months in oak we strive to produce a wine that is still lively and fresh with varied and delicate flavours, showcasing the subtleties and finesse that Viognier is capable of.

Contact us to find out more about these new arrivals info@h2vin.co.uk

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