$15.99, €14.95, £13.99, 169.95 Danish krone
There are so many dull Viogniers around that it is some time since the variety has featured as a wine of the week here. Richard chose one a couple of years ago but I haven't chosen one since 2008. But when I tasted the latest releases from James Kinglake's Domaine Begude in the hills above Limoux in the south-west Languedoc I was reminded of just how good his Le Paradis varietal Viognier can be.
Too often Viognier is simply a florally aromatic simple white wine. I sometimes suspect producers of stretching yields of Viognier so that it doesn't actually have much flavour, and then adding perfume via a slug of Muscat or Gewurztraminer. But Begude, Le Paradis Viognier seems clearly to have been inspired by Condrieu, the birthplace of Viognier in the northern Rhône. The wine is bone dry (the 2016's residual sugar is just 1.5 g/l) but chock full of blossomy flavour – as a good Condrieu should be. The main difference between this particular Languedoc varietal Viognier and a fine Condrieu is probably its longevity. I think this recently released 2016 vintage should ideally be drunk before the end of 2017.
The grapes are grown organically on a well-exposed, south-facing site at 240 m (787 ft) and the wine is fermented in demi-muids (large casks) but there is no hint of oak in the final wine. The already evolved, bright yellow 2016 is notably opulent as well as admirably muscular. It is hugely, recognisably varietal – it would make a good teaching aid in fact. There's good energy and depth to it, as one might expect from a yield of only 30 hl/ha. The alcohol level is a user-friendly 12.45%, and because it is good and dry, this Viognier could easily be enjoyed with food – a fairly salty food such a ham, perhaps.
When I tasted it last May, the broad, relatively rich 2015 seemed to have a slightly longer potential life (I suggested drinking it last year or this) and I appreciated the rather Condrieu-like honeysuckle aromas.
Wine drinkers in the UK should note that this wine is now available exclusively as a strictly limited parcel on Majestic's website https://www.majestic.co.uk at £13.99 if six mixed bottles are bought. The 2015 is still offered by K&L in San Francisco and the wine is also available in the Netherlands and Denmark according to wine-searcher.com.
Begude, Le Secret du Sud Gewurztraminer 2016 is also decidedly superior. So far this vintage seems to be available only in France but it will probably be imported into the UK by Stone, Vine & Sun of Hampshire, who have long had a good selection of Begude wines at their usual friendly prices.
Also fine value are Begude's Chardonnays, including the unoaked Begude, Bel Ange Chardonnay 2016 sold in the UK for £8.99 by Majestic, and as a regular Begude Chardonnay by Goedhuis. The 2016 is also available in the Netherlands and Denmark. I have been most impressed by the oaked Begude, Étoile Chardonnay, both 2013 and 2014 vintages, but it doesn't seem to feature on wine-searcher.com - and was thrilled to have a foretaste of a very special wild-ferment wine, Begude Arcturus Chardonnay 2015. Definitely worth looking out for when it is released. Their various Pinot Noirs are not too shabby either...
Purple Pagers will be able to access all 62 tasting notes on Begude wines in our tasting notes database and to track the progress of this independent domaine over time.