Rx Magazine

V is for Viognier, now in vogue
by Kate Zimmerman for RX Magazine

Chardonnay? It’s so passé. What you need to try is Viognier.

Even the wine experts are suddenly clamouring to praise this fragrant white wine with its dry, clean taste. Acknowledging its new popularity with those in the know, Vancouver Sun wine columnist Anthony Gismondi described it in December as “the season’s hippest white wine.”

Richard Harvey, owner of Calgary’s Metrovino wine store, says there’s a curiousity factor about Viognier, which until about 10 years ago was largely unknown in Canada. That’s because its grape vines, native to France’s Northern Rhone district, were finicky and not easy to transplant from their native Condrieu region. The development of hardier vines has led to Viognier vineyards all over the world and much greater awareness of all the wine has to offer.

That includes a golden colour and a heady, floral perfume without the sweetness one would expect to accompany it. Harvey praises the “sheer personality of the grape with peach, apricot and tree fruit to it.”

Viognier tends to complement lighter dishes, particularly those featuring fish, shellfish or chicken. It also works well with intense but not-too-spicy foods like Thai or Malaysian curries, Harvey says. To avoid? Pairing Viognier with oysters.

Recommended Viogniers:

Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier from South Australia, around $22 in Alberta.

California’s Cline Cellars 2000 ($20) or the organic Californian version, Bonterra Vineyards 2001, Mendocino ($22; both B.C. prices).

For “the benchmark of Viognier,” Harvey recommends going to the source — France’s Condrieu region. There, winemakers like Chapoutier, Gaillard and Cuilleron bottle Viogniers that cost about $50-$60 in Alberta.

Writing > Food

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