Inexpensive Viognier

This may seem a rather vague term for a wine of the week but I have been very rude about bargain Viognier in the past and wanted to register the fact that I am currently finding much higher quality overall, even as low as £4.99 or under $10. Most of the early Viogniers sold as Vins de Pays d'Oc tasted to me like the flavour-free produce of very young vines jazzed up with a few drops of air freshener and a dollop of Muscat but I've noticed a distinct step up in quality recently.

I also thought that this was a good, belt-tightening time of year for drinking inexpensive wine – and that the richness of Viognier makes it a white particularly suitable for those of us shivering in winter weather.

One good-value example to have come my way recently is Viognier Vin de Pays d'Oc 2002 Vignobles Paul Mas which is very respectable for the price. Full bodied, like all good Viogniers, but not a Sumo wrestler like some California examples, this wine had a seductively true aroma when first opened. It does not last overnight, but then for all its heavy, fat bottle, this is not a fat wine and costs only £4.99 from Asda stores in the UK. It's made by the same family outfit outside Pezenas in the Languedoc as made La Forge Merlot, a wine of the week last summer. UK retail stockists and international distibutors of Paul Mas wines:

UK independent retailers
European Wine Growers – Silverdale, Lancashire – Tel 01524 701723
Wine in Cornwall – Cornwall – Tel 01326 640332
Moon on a Stick – Bradford – Tel 01274 681500
Bacchanalia – Cambridge – Tel 01223 576282
Wimbledon Wine Cellars – London – Tel 0208 5409979

Australia DAN MURPHY, Melbourne
Japan MOTTOX, Osaka,
Greece TSAKLAS BROS, Pireus,
Sweden and Denmark BORNICON & SALMING, Stockholm and Copenhagen, Sweden
Denmark MAISON SEVINO, Copenhagen,
Holland POOT AGENTUREN, De Lier,
Belgium RABOTVINS, Gent,
MAXIVINS, Bruxelles,
Germany JACQUES WEIN DEPOT, Dusseldorf,
Austria PERKALS WEIN ART, Vienna
Ireland KARWIG WINES, Cork,
WINE WAREHOUSE, Commerce City, CA,

The Paul Mas winemaker Jean-Claude Mas features in one of the most entertaining chapters of the recently published Notes from the Languedoc, self-published by the author Rupert Wright, a British ex-pat now domiciled near Pezenas. He manages to describe a business encounter between Mas, a big yeoman cheese on the way up, and an aristocratic vigneron on the way down with some sensitivity and wit. The book is available in the UK at £12 from Foyles travel section in Charing Cross Road on 020 5020 3261.

The New World, which had minuscule quantities of Viognier planted even quite recently, has been catching up fast. Yalumba has already established itself as Australia's premium Viognier specialist. California has had a host of rich (and usually expensive) Viogniers to choose from for some time now – I have been particularly beguiled by Renwood's combination of price and quality recently. There is also a certain quantity of very inexpensive varietal Viognier available on the California bulk wine market. And attentive purple pagers know already that I reckon Tesco's own Finest Reserve California Viognier 2002 is also pretty good value at £4.99.

Chile has yet to make much of an impact with its Viogniers but Argentina, of all places, has been establishing itself as rather a whizz with the grape, making respectable bargain examples for some time, notably under the Zuccardi family's Santa Julia Mendoza label (US importer Winesellers Ltd. Tel:847-679-0121

Majestic stock the super-full Las Moras Viognier 2003 San Juan which is usually £4.99 but each bottle costs just £4.49 if two bottles are bought (and Majestic cleverly insist on selling their customers a minimum of a dozen mixed bottles). There is a very slight oiliness to this one – the most common fault in an overripe Viognier – but then the characteristic aromas will not develop unless the grapes reach a pretty high level of ripeness.

Thank the Lord I am a mere scribe rather than a wine producer.