I love viognier, I first heard it described years ago as “having too much of everything.” It resonated with my relatively inexperienced wine self--although it is incorrect.
Viognier is a tough grape. In 1965, it was down to about eight hectares of plantings in its spiritual home in the Condrieu appellation in France. Viognier is intensely aromatic and packed with mineral, floral, and tropical fruit characteristics, but it can also have a bit of an oily texture or even a bitter finish. It doesn’t age especially well, although some do show a bit of improvement with a few years in the bottle. With so much going on, I find the best viogniers are “slightly wobbly” when tasted. They should almost taste like the wine is just one small element from being unbalanced.
Fast-forward to today and thanks to a number of viognier fans, it’s planted (rarely widely) all over the world, including about 83 hectares in British Columbia, in addition to other significant countries, including Australia, United States, Chile and Italy.
Despite its remarkable intensity, it doesn’t handle oak especially well, nor does it show well with anything over bone-dry sweetness. It most often appears by itself, but can, and does, work with a few other Rhone white grape varieties such as marsanne, roussanne; and interestingly, it is a great blending partner with shiraz/syrah in small quantities. When co-fermented as about one to three per cent of the blend, it elevates the aromatics of the syrah and helps to keep an intense black colour to the finished wine.
Most listed are available in B.C. and Alberta, with a handful available in other markets. You may be able to order these online. Prices are approximate.
Calliope 2014 Viognier, Okanagan Valley
What a pretty little number: peaches and pears with a strong floral aroma. Calliope is a family label from the Wyse family, perhaps better known for its Burrowing Owl brand. Palate-wise, this has nice fruits, with a slightly oily texture and a medium length finish, ending on a slightly bitter note. Very easy to enjoy.
$15-18 B.C., AB, SK
Kettle Valley Winery 2012 Viognier, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley
Right off the bat, through no fault of the wine, this one a strong honeysuckle and bruised pear aroma to the intense white blossom tones as a result of a couple of years in the bottle. Showing really well right now, it’s a treat to drink with well-balanced fruits and a tight finish that is just a little austere.
$26-32 B.C., AB
Serendipity Winery 2013 Viognier, Okanagan Valley
A little strange in the glass even for viognier. Aromas include talcum powder, pine, orange Creamsicle, along with a good assortment of floral bouquets. Interestingly, it doesn’t actually taste like viognier, and I wonder if something happened to the wine between the vineyard and the bottle. Sorry, don’t know what this is, but it certainly has a bitter, herbal finish.
$20-22 B.C., AB
Hillside 2014 Reserve Viognier, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley
Clean, ripe tropical fruits of peaches, oranges, maybe a little pineapple, tea leaf, and honey elevate the nose. Plenty of complex flavours with maybe a bare touch of sweetness. Aged sur lie [bottled directly from the lees[ for a few months, which lends a pleasing sourdough edge to the finish. Nice stuff.
CedarCreek 2014 Platinum Viognier, Okanagan Valley
So much going on with this nose that I don’t know where to begin. Look for oranges, Bartlett pear, dried apricots and some dried flowers. Wonderfully textured, almost greasy, balanced out by a strong bitterness that accentuates the lively fruits. Exciting and tasty. Don’t serve too cold; otherwise, you’ll miss out on the finer things going on.
$28-35 B.C., AB
Great Northern Vineyards 2014 Viognier, Okanagan Valley
There is a familial relation between Great Northern Vineyards and the Kettle Valley Winery, but these are separate products and the fruit is different from that used by KVW, so it would be incorrect to call this a second label.
Bright apricot fruits with a hint of struck match, peaches and apples also show on the nose. Clean and pure fruit on the longish and generous finish. A pleasure to enjoy sip after sip.
$21-25 B.C., AB