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Eat & Drink » Wine

Voluptuous Viognier



Honeysuckle, apricot, braised fennel, jasmine, honey, peach, nectarine, acacia, orange blossoms, mango, roasted pineapple, kiwi, tangerine, guava, lychee, ripe melon, pear, lemon-lime, and … fresh gardenias. This is just a smattering of descriptors I’ve seen used by wine enthusiasts to capture the fabulous floral and fruit aromas and flavors of a good bottle of Viognier. It’s a voluptuous wine that pairs with summer Rio and string bikinis.

Viognier (pronounced VEE-ohn-yay) is the comeback kid. As recently as the Summer of Love, the Viognier grape was nearly extinct, with fewer than 35 acres remaining in France, and most of that in the Northern Rhône appellations of Château-Grillet and Condrieu. It’s a temperamental grape'very difficult to grow, fussy about humidity and dampness, prone to disease and producing low yields. So it’s no wonder really that Viognier had been abandoned but for a handful of resolute Rhône rangers. But beginning in the 1980s, Viognier began being cultivated by brave vintners in places as far-flung as Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile and Brazil. In the United States, there are now Viognier plantings in Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Colorado and, of course, California, which is where the real Viognier resurgence has taken place.

It’s helpful when thinking about Viognier to get a picture of Elizabeth Taylor circa 1963 in your head. First, there’s that incredible perfume: Crack open a bottle of Viognier, and you’ll be overwhelmed by scents of acacia, orange blossom, tropical fruits and spring flowers, a lot like Gewürztraminer. Your neighbors will be able to smell the wine from their back yards. Next, go ahead and take a sip. Not quite as innocent and sweet as you’d thought from that pretty perfume, right? It’s probably a bit more exotic than you’d expected (think Liz Taylor in Cleopatra). In fact, you’re probably saying to yourself “Wow, this little number has quite the body!”

The color of great Viognier'deep golden'and the seductive body and creamy, viscous texture suggests a cloying sweetness that, again, in great Viognier, isn’t there. Yes, it’s a wine that’s relatively low in acidity but not really sweet, either, and in fact, it’s surprisingly dry given Viognier’s floral and honeyed components. One wine writer wrote that Viognier is “Chardonnay’s ravishing, exotic sister.” Yup.

Of course, ladies like Liz don’t come cheap. So a really great bottle will set you back a bit. If you want to go straight for the real deal, get your hands on a bottle of the aforementioned Château-Grillet or Condrieu. Locally, Guigal Condrieu sells for $58.75, which is about 20 percent higher than most markets. The superconcentrated Guigal Condrieu La Doriane will run you $100.35 and be worth every penny.

Thankfully, you can get into Viognier a little cheaper. I quite like Smoking Loon Viognier from California which sells for a measly $8.95. But my favorite locally accessible domestic versions are Tablas Creek and Zaca Mesa, which sell for under $20. Viognier: She’s quite the babe.

Sips: Red Rock Brewing Company took home four medals earlier this month from the North American Beer Awards in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Their Munich Dunkel won gold, Belgian Wit was awarded a silver and Red Rock Reve and Organic Zwickel Bier both garnered bronze medals. Red Rock Brewing Company is located at 254 S. 200 West and at the Redstone Center in Park City.