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March 29, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]



This week’s column will focus on one of the greatest varieties of all time—Viognier (pronounced vee-on-yay). Viognier, like Riesling and Pinot Gris, is an aromatic variety that is well-known for its floral aromas and rich texture which make it an excellent wine to drink with food.

The history of Viognier remains shrouded in a thick, dark cloud of mystery—the common presumption is that the variety was brought to Rhone in France by the Romans in ancient times.

Historians muse that the variety drew its name from the Roman pronunciation of via Gehennae, meaning the “road to Hell”. Don’t let this scare you though; Viognier is variety that has a warm and sensual embrace that you need to feel.

As far as the New Zealand wine industry goes, Viognier is relatively new on the scene. Pioneering regions for the variety have been Gisborne and Hawkes Bay, and as of 2009 New Zealand has 170 productive hectares of Viognier planted.

In my opinion, Viognier is a variety with an exciting future in this country; it just needs sustained, good quality exposure. If you’re interested, wineries such as Ngatarawa, Te Mata Estate, and Tietjen Witters all produce fantastic examples of Viognier between the $20-$30 mark that are well worth checking out.

Wine of the Week

This week’s wine of the week comes from a Hawkes Bay producer and is the Vidal Estate 2009 East Coast Viognier ($16.90).

Vidal Estate, located in the heart of Hastings, is one of Hawkes Bay’s oldest, most recognisable wine producers, founded in 1905 by Spaniard Anthony Vidal. If you’ve never tried Viognier before then this one is a great first example as it is approachable, like an inviting cashmere rug, and easy drinking.

This wine has the trademark varietal bouquet of apricot, pear and spice, as well as an apple crumble-esque/biscuit aroma which instantly slaps a smile on your face.

The texture is soft and rich with a spicy complexity that adds great length to this dry wine. I’d recommend drinking this wine on it’s own or with seafood, chicken or pork.

Its hard to find Viognier under $20 in Wellington, but you can scoop this one up from Moore Wilson’s for $16.90. Regional Wines and Spirits also have a big range and a few hidden gems under the $20 mark.


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  1. Raymond Chan says:

    The Australians have a great deal of experience with Viognier, especially the Yalumba firm. They’ve got 25+ y.o. vines and make the ‘Y Series’ priced around $15.00, right to the ‘Eden Valley at los $20.00s to the flagship ‘Virgilius’ at over $50.00. Well worth trying these…

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