From €8.75, £7.59
Viognier is perpetually just about to become the next big thing. Jancis called it flavour of the year in 2005. I was told it would be the next Chardonnay when I joined the wine trade in 2001. I expect they were even hyping it when the Roman Emperor Probus reputedly first brought Viognier to France in the third century.
With its strong aromatic signature, full body and often high alcohol, Viognier is actually more likely to divide than conquer, and today it remains very much a niche grape. Granted, it has enjoyed a significant revival since nearly becoming extinct in Condrieu in the 1960s, but there is still less Viognier planted in the whole world than there is Chardonnay in Burgundy.
Wine drinkers who are used to sharp-toothed Sauvignon Blanc or innocuous Pinot Grigio often find Viognier overwhelmingly flamboyant and rich. Indeed, so do I, half of the time.
Which is why finding a good one is especially worth mentioning. So let this be a wine of the week for those really in the know.
Good examples of Viognier have all the distinctive characteristics of the variety without being exaggerated, and without sacrificing balance to low acid, high alcohol and heavy weight (and often all three). To find such examples usually means looking to Condrieu, the grape’s rightful home in the northern Rhône, and that means paying at least £25 and often much more.
Domaine de Vedilhan, Serica Viognier 2013 IGP Pays d'Oc manages to provide all that quality for less than half that price. I tasted the 2013 vintage without knowing how much it cost and was staggered to later find out it was less than £10. It has beautifully pure fruit, excellent oak integration and significant length as well as finely judged balance – a full-bodied wine, but in the finest corsetry.
The grapes come from near the village of Moussan, about ten kilometres inland from Narbonne. The vineyard is surrounded by a stream, which not only has a cooling influence on the site but provides natural irrigation. This is alleged to give the wine its freshness and lift.
Partly on the strength of the fact that such well-made Viogniers are hard to find, I got very excited and scored this 17.5. Tamlyn was also enthused (though doubtless more considered in her scoring) when she gave it 16.5 in our soon-to-be-published round-up of Languedoc tasting notes.
It’s made by Boutinot, the producer, importer and agency based in north-west England. As such, it is mostly available in the UK, although Wine-searcher lists some stockists in the Netherlands. Also, it seems much beloved of independent merchants, which is always something worth championing. At least 10 UK retailers list it, including WineTrust100 (who sent me this sample bottle), a relatively new online merchant with an all-MW selection panel, and whose range is therefore understandably tempting, boasting a great selection of esoteric, interesting wines.