Food & Wine Photo Credit: Chateau Pesquie

How to make Viognier perfect

Start by growing it in France and adding some pals to toughen it up a bit

terrasses-blanc

Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Blanc 2011 

There are few white grapes that seem to hate the journey across the Pacific more than Viognier. In the Northern Rhone it provides an invaluable, if small, addition to Cote Rotie and then knocks it out of the park on its own in Condrieu, one the great white’s of the world. But in the new world? Yalumba in Australia does a steady job, I had a bottle from California’s Pride Mountain a few years back that was amazing and one from Alban that was better, but other than that I seem to enjoy it most when its role is to bring some floral notes to Syrah in the wines of Laughing Stock and Stag’s Hollow.

The problem with the grape is that when it’s picked too early it’s seriously unexciting and if it’s left to hang to late it develops an oily character that’s unpleasant. It likes some heat and, as a result of it’s predisposition for developing mildew, wind. All of which make the hot, windy Northern Rhone Valley perfect. The only rub is that the Northern Rhone produces some of the priciest wine on earth and as such Viognier from there remains something of splurge, so coming across this wine is a Godsend. Many people will know Chateau Pesquie from their consistently over-delivering reds (Robert Parker Jr. loves them) but this white shows that they have a deft touch with reasonable priced whites as well. The secret is twofold: Firstly the winery is in the Cotes de Ventoux in the Sourthern RHone Valley but it has an elevation that makes the climate more similar to the Northern Rhone (Tour de France aficionados will recognize the Ventoux name as the site of one the the most gruelling climbs in a all of cycledom). Secondly the winery adds 15% Clairette and 15% Roussanne, two grapes that bolster the wine with a bracing backbone of acidity that keeps it from getting flabby and oily. The result is a wine with great minerality and freshness but that still expresses a high mountain field of lavender and honey. It’s the best under $20 Viognier I’ve tasted in ages and it works well everything single thing I’ll eat from now until September.

 

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