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Reasons to love the delightful Viognier

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Ten years before I became involved with the wine trade, in the entire world there was only one small, 17-acre vineyard, producing about 200 cases a year of our featured variety today.

The grape called Viognier (vee-on-yea) was on the brink of taking the path of the dinosaur and dodo bird.

It is not an easy grape to grow as the picking time is critical; if not fully ripe it will lack its classic aromas and rich taste and if you wait too long it may produce too much alcohol and lack delicacy.

I happen to be a big fan of the white wine called Viognier and I am happy to report that over 740 acres now exist in its historical home (some 2,000 years ago) in the Rhone Valley of France and either on its own or in blends we also have them from South Africa, Argentina and California.

Michel Chapoutier, in the Rhone Valley, farms all his land biodynamically and his Domaine des Granges de Mirabel Viognier is our best selling white wine from this appellation. Peach and apricot greet the nose along with orange blossoms and the zippy lime-zest crispness makes it perfect as a summer aperitif, but it will also do very well with seafood, salmon, salads and chicken dishes. The 2013 sells for $21.85.

You will possibly find all the Chapoutier labels interesting because they are the only winery to have theirs embossed with Braille. The story goes that the Chapoutier brothers were friends with Ray Charles and they did this so that he could select his own wines.

We have recently bought in a selection of wines from Gerard Bertrand in the Languedoc region of Southern France and among them is his Viognier Reserve Speciale 2013. It is pale yellow with intense aromas of white flowers and the palate is rich and lush with tropical fruits, dried apricots, hazelnuts and honey. $15.95.

You may know that the Alamos winery in Argentina is part of the Catena organisation and these lower priced wines are made from Catena vines that have not yet reached the level or age and maturity that gives us maximum complexity in the wine.

For instance the 2013 Alamos Viognier is only $12.80 and is quite a lovely midweek wine that offers a clean mouth-feel with the expected subtle peach along with apple and the absence of any oak makes it crisp and refreshing.

Pine Ridge winery in the heart of Napa Valley makes a delicious blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier and their 2013 won gold in San Francisco with a score of 90/100.

The 2009, 2010 and 2012 also garnered 90 points so it is very consistent. The wine has a honeydew aroma that smells like springtime and the addition of peaches and floral accents and a lingering finish all add up to a delightful white wine that is perfect as the weather warms up. $20.10.

Taking white wine blends to the limit we have a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Sémillon, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne 2012 from the Rustenberg winery in South Africa. It is really fresh, bright and mouth-watering and although Viognier makes up only 5.60 per cent, I suspect that it is mainly responsible for the delicious peach aromas. The wine is crisp with ripe melon and passion fruit and I would suggest it is quite ideal for the folks that cannot make up their mind about which grape variety they would like to try! $17.80.

This column is a paid for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East. 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St. George’s (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits are available online at www.wineonline.bm.