International Viognier Day
In these times of polished marketing, data-driven delivery and social media savviness, there’s an “International Day” for just about every product or service – no matter how dumb the idea sounds. From International Fruitcake Toss Day in January to Caramel Popcorn Day in April and Donald Duck Day in June, there’s a ridiculous reason to celebrate something every day of the year. And given the white noise and wallpaper that these “International Days” tend to become as they light up my inbox each morning, I almost missed an International Day that has more meaning to me than most – International Viognier Day; celebrated each year on the 30th April.
The 30th April is a fairly busy day for inane celebrations; it’s both International Hairstyle Appreciation Day and National Honesty Day. And in the spirit of that latter commemoration, I’m not going to tell a fib – I reckon most of these marketeer driven observances are arrant nonsense! But when it comes to wine, I’m a little more tolerant of a bit of harmless spin-doctoring!
Viognier is an enigmatic grape that Jancis Robinson once described in 1985 as being on the verge of extinction – but one which has enjoyed an impressive revival in the last few decades thanks to growing popularity in the New World. Historically, the grape was all but limited to a handful of plantings in the Rhone Valley in France where it is the staple varietal of the Condrieu appellation. In more recent times though, the style has found favour across the Americas, South Africa and here in Australia. It may not be ready to rival sauvignon blanc or chardonnay by volume, but with its heady perfume and aromatics, it’s surely capable of influencing a few of the swinging voters out there in the white wine-loving population?
As a varietal, Viognier has rewarded skill and effort but left many winemakers scratching their collective heads. It can be a tricky wine to grow as yields can be variable and getting the ripeness right is difficult. But when it works, it delivers in spades as there are usually ample aromatics, mouth-watering flavours, and a palate pleasing mouthfeel. Personally, I love the honeysuckle nose and the blend of apricot, peach and mango characters that typically appear across the palate. That and the mouth filling (if not slightly oily) mouthfeel that is the penultimate scene before the curtain closing finale.
When it comes to the Australian versions of the style, it’s hard to go past wines like the Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier that retails at around $25 a bottle, or if you’ve got deeper pockets, the Viognier by Farr which will set you back around $70 a bottle. I can’t help but admire the foresight of the Yalumba team who planted the troublesome varietal back in 1980 on a neighbouring three-acre vineyard on elevated Eden Valley slopes. Some 40 years on, it’s producing a cracking wine that delivers well above its price point – and in the process, re-established Viognier as a varietal worth persevering with!
Both the Yalumba and Farr versions are styles that I’d open sooner rather than later, but you can’t fault the succulence of the fruit, the balance across the palate and the inevitable soft lingering finish.
There may be an International Day for just about everything, but when it comes to Viognier, it’s an occasion worthy of raising a glass and tipping your proverbial hat.