Viognier, phoenetic ‘vee – o – nyei’. Spiritual home: Northern Rhone. Producer: Chapoutier. All 3, Jackpot!
If you love viognier you may have drunk Condrieu, which is the appellation in the Northern Rhone which is considered the spiritual home of the grape, and certainly produces some of the finest examples in the world of this variety. As is so often the case, the trouble with classic wines like Condrieu is that they cost an arm and a leg. So it was a wonderful surprise to taste an outstanding Viognier from the same region which costs a fraction of the price.
Viognier can sometimes be a bit insipid or a bit ‘flabby’ – a strange word to describe a wine but basically means that there isn’t enough acidity to balance the fruit and alcohol. Interestingly this viognier – from legendary producer Chapoutier (more about them shortly) – is an IGP which is the level below AOP. That’s because the vineyards are just outside the relatively small geographically delimited area of Condrieu – there are just 170 ha/420 acres. In other words, as it’s IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, theoretically the grapes could come from anywhere in the Northern Rhone, but the vineyards are literally just outside the border of/adjacent to Condrieu.
So what of the wine? On the nose, aromas of apricots, white peach and jasmine, in fact absolutely textbook and would be a great wine to put into a Bind Tasting. On the palate gorgeous fruit which can only be described as opulent, a fine seam of acidity which helps to provide that all-important balance, and a long, lingering finish. Just lovely to drink and makes you want to reach for a second or third glass!
The wine cost a bargain £14.50 from The Wine Society though sadly they have sold out. As of today it’s still available at £17.99 at Laithwaites (just shows you what good value The Wine Society offer!).
Chapoutier are a négociant in the Rhone valley and have been around since 1808, but the quality of the wines have soared since family member Michel took over the running of the business in 1988. Chapoutier now produce a hugely diverse and complex range of wines, and all the vineyards are now run on biodynamic principles. Not just that but the label of every single bottle is embossed with braille.
Criterion Wine Tours organised a Premium tour to the Northern Rhone in 2017 when we enjoyed a fascinating tasting and delicious lunch at Chapoutier. We didn’t taste La Combe Pilate viognier then but I will be drinking a lot more of it from now on!