Embracing Alternatives: Putting the ‘Yay!' in Viognier
In the early 1990s, viognier became one of the world’s most fashionable and distinctive white grape varieties. This is astounding given that just decades earlier it had been on the verge of disappearing from the face of the earth completely. In 1985 there were just 32 ha (80 acres) of recorded viognier plantings in the entire world. At this time, almost all of these vines were in the Rhône Valley, with the majority grown in the Condrieu appellation ‒ viognier’s ancestral home and a small village tucked among the hills of Northern Rhône.
Fortunately for wine lovers across the globe, viognier was brought back from the cusp of extinction and has even gone on to enjoy something of a renaissance in recent decades. For example, by 2011 Condrieu plantings had risen from 23 ha (57 acres) in ‘85 to 160 ha (400 acres). The variety has also seen an incredible boost in popularity overseas, including here in Australia where producers in several regions have welcomed it with particular enthusiasm. At Mount Avoca, we’re huge fans of this alternative white variety; so what is it about viognier that makes it such a compelling variety?
V is for vivacious
As a wine, viognier is truly a hedonist’s white. This is chiefly because of its extraordinary combination of perfume and body. On the nose it’s characterised by intense aromas of orange citrus, ripe stone fruit, honeysuckle and musk. Structurally, it tends to high levels of alcohol and moderate acidity, yielding ripe, generous wines that have a luscious, mouth-filling palate. The variety’s inherent texture and concentrated flavours make it an excellent pair for succulent white meat dishes, cheesy traybakes and spicy asian cuisine.
These qualities also make viognier an excellent blending partner for another popular Australian variety: shiraz. Modelled after the traditional red wines of the Côte Rôtie in the Northern Rhône, viognier is co-fermented in small quantities (typically 5-10%) with syrah; in addition to providing aromatic and textural properties, the co-fermentation helps to stabilise the wine’s colour and deepen its texture.
Part of the reason viognier has done so well in Australia is its ability to adapt to different sites and regions. Originally from the steep, sloping terroirs that line the Rhône river in the east of France, viognier is a relatively hardy vine that thrives in relatively warm climates and can withstand drought conditions. The variety has also shown that it is well suited to both warm and cool climates. Wines from warm regions tend to be heady, opulently aromatic wines with a sense of weight on the palate. In cool climate regions viognier is generally more elegant, with fresh citrus fruit and apricot notes and a delicate floral perfume.
How Mount Avoca puts the ‘yay!’ in viognier
At Mount Avoca we are fortunate that the Pyrenees region shares some geographical similarities with the Rhône: it’s cool climate, relatively mountainous and elevated terrain, and enjoys a strong diurnal range during the ripening season. This helps to ensure our fruit stays well balanced, producing a wine that captures viognier’s natural opulence without becoming overblown.
As with all our wines, our estate viognier is produced using organically-farmed, estate-grown fruit. Made exclusively from the 642 Clone, the grapes are cool fermented with a Portuguese yeast strain that accentuates the grapes textural character and naturally intense aroma and flavour profile. The wine is clean and full-bodied with flavours of fresh apricot and peach, mandarin peel and quince that complement balanced acidity and a lingering citrus finish. Perfect paired with grilled chicken, vietnamese cuisine and, for those looking to indulge, lobster!