Viognier – South Africa’s Best Kept Secret

If Viognier were a person, she would be my best friend’s sister. Blonde, curvaceous, with an air of beguiling perfume about her and an easy mixer in social circles and once you had a relationship with her, you were in it for the long haul. But she is not, she is a grape!

Viognier is one of those classical Rhone whites, having been grown on the poor soil slopes of the Northern Rhone for hundreds of years, producing few bunches per vines and almost fading away out of existence until about three quarters of the way through the 20th century when the French realized that they had a good thing going with Condrieu and the nurserymen started doing something about it. Now it is found in Provence, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and California.

And eventually it made its way to South Africa in 1993.

So what do we look for in a Viognier. The grapes are citrine colour, and as colour usually means flavour and sugar the resulting wines have guts and a healthy component of alcohol to boot. As a finished product is has a healthy rich golden colour in the glass. The grapes themselves are highly perfumed with aromas of white tropical flowers and orange blossom, you’ll find whiffs of these as you bring the glass to your nose. Take your first mouthful – and do make it a mouthful not a mean little sip – slosh it around, wash it over your teeth and you wont have to search too hard to find those online casino nederlandsegokken delicious soft sundried apricots, ripe white fleshed peaches and the fullness of a ripe winter melon. The wine is best drunk young while its aromas still whirl about the top of the glass and while there is still a spark of freshness and limesquirt to it.

Viognier, being so aromatic, at times finds its way into Shiraz, where often the Viognier grapes are pressed free of juice and the Shiraz mash is put on top of the pressed mash for fermentation. Viognier, the latter showing its presence quite markedly. While the more delicate Chenins, Colombars and Sauvignons are spring and summer outdoorsy wines, Viognier has a bit more guts and slips down very easily in the cooler Autumn months and even when there is a fire in the hearth.

Here are five dishes that show the wine up at its best:

Barbecued Yellowtail, a game fish full flavoured, marinated briefly in lime, ginger, garlic, chili and a sprinkle of garam masala. Paint with sunflower oil and show it to hot coals till almost done, it will continue cooking on its way to the plate.

Chicken Biriani – a gently spiced yet flavour packed Indian dish of chicken and rice

Mussels cooked in Cider with lashings of parsley and cream

Confit leg of Duck, roasted and served with a fruity sauce dotted with whole dried apricots.

With porcini popping up all over our forests, a creamy risotto would match Viognier perfectly. I cut the stalks into matchsticks and toss them in butter and use them as a garnish.


Article source adapted: Michael Olivier