Thursday, June 12, 2008

WBW #46: Rhone Whites

Wed 11 June 2008

Just a tad late posting for this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday ... but I promise I did do the drinking yesterday! This month, those of us not caught by surprise, are being hosted by Dr Debs, and she has chosen Rhône whites.

In fact, I was so unprepared that, initially, I thought I'd take a more academic slant and just discuss a couple of wines I've enjoyed in the past. Fortunately, a change in Wednesday evening plans meant I was actually able to source a new wine, specifically for the event.

The three principal white grape varieties of the Rhône are Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. Viognier is added to Shiraz in the Côte Rôtie blend, as well as being used in white blends and appearing by itself. This is also the case in my native Australia: and you have no idea how tedious some Australian Viogniers could be in the 1990s. Funnily enough, Tahbilk's Marsanne was, and still is, an interesting, different and good value wine. After Chardonnay, Viognier was something I would not drink.

And it still, more or less, is.

However, 19 June 2007, I discovered Condrieu. I attended a Rhône wine dinner and was devastated to discover that any whites on offer would, most likely, be Viognier. The wine was a £20 a bottle La Galopine 2005 and I really liked it. A lot. In fact, so much, you would have thought I'd have taken greater care of my tasting notes and been able to find them, but apparently not!

Interesting, just 2 days prior to this dinner, I'd walked into my favourite wine shop, announced "I don't like Viognier, sell me something which will change my mind". The £5 bottle of Fox Wood Dawn Picked Viognier just didn't hit the mark.

For WBW my local supermarket obliged with a £5.19 bottle of Familia Zuccardi Santa Julia Viognier, 2007, from Mendoza in Argentina (13.5% abv). There were a couple of Chilean and South African examples to choose from, but I opted for Argentina because the proportion of wine imported into the UK which comes from Argentina is very small. Sort of like rooting for the underdog.
In the glass, this is a very pale wine, but with a pronounced nose. Definite stone fruit, erring towards peach rather than apricot, with subtle hints of tropical fruits, like pineapple. After a bit of consideration, there were also some vaguely smokey, minerally notes.

The palate isn't quite as complex: good acidity, a tiny touch of residual sweetness, and plenty of stone fruit. The length was good and the flavours did develop in the mouth, although still very much staying in the stone fruit department.

Initially, I really liked this, but a glass or so in, something about it started to ... wear ... a bit. As an apéritif, I think one (two, tops) glass would work really well - as it is a crisp and refreshing wine. I paired it with some pasta and pesto, and while the acidity worked a treat with the pesto's oil, it wasn't really up to the sauce's salty, strong flavours. If you are drinking this with food, I'd go the chicken or pork route, and add in a creamy, rich sauce. I think fish would be a no-no, as would anything too salty.

The wine doesn't seem to last well: tonight, it's drinking a lot more harshly. The fruit has been replaced by acidity, alcohol and the mineral notes that were subtle last night. But that's my fault for leaving a bottle partly drunk!

At £5 this is a pretty solid wine and not a shabby example of a Viognier. If you spot it on offer, it will represent a bargain.

I'll leave it to you to decide whether I'd have preferred to drink a £20+ Condrieu!

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Blogger Dr. Debs said...

Thanks so much for participating--and with an Argentinian Viognier, no less! It doesn't sound bad for the price, but I think maybe that Condrieu would have been knock out.

10:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had as much fun with your Rhone-style white as I did on this Wine Blogging Wednesday!

3:59 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Dr Debs - you're right - for £5 the Viognier was pretty good indeed! It's just such a shame that Condrieu comes in at about 4x the price!

Dale - the Guigal you tasted is quite widely available here (I think) so I shall definitely look out for it!

Hopefully the English summer hasn't been and gone and I can start engaging in some serious white wine drinking!

7:05 pm  

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