Many people have gotten fed up drinking heavy-oaked Chardonnay wines
California winemakers have a lot to be happy about. California wines consistently rank and complete successfully against the best wines in the world. California Chardonnay hit full stride in the early 1990s, becoming the drink of choice for most wine drinkers. When diners and bar patrons think of white wine, they automatically think of Chardonnay, so much so that the terms have almost become interchangeable. As a result, more and more producers started making “me too” bottles that were indistinguishable from one another, and many were so heavily oak aged that all the crisp, fruity characteristics of Chardonnay were obliterated.
Many drinkers started becoming tired of drinking the same ol’ wine day after day, especially when it came to Chardonnay. Myself included. Like most things in our society that become wildly popular, backlash soon followed. This repercussion has been given the name ABC, Anything But Chardonnay. It became uncool to drink Chardonnay but that left a void because there wasn’t a suitable replacement. That has changed.
Viognier, a white wine with loads of honey and orange blossom aromatics is gaining in popularity. It has that deep, rich golden color Chardonnay drinkers love, creaminess in the mouth and tropical fruit flavors like overripe apricots, mango and pineapple.
Viognier is a white wine that even red wine drinkers enjoy. Most white wine grapes have thin skins while red grapes tend to have thicker skins with more tannins, which makes the wine more astringent. Viognier breaks this rule by having a slightly thicker skin than most white grapes, resulting in a fuller flavor. In the Rhone Valley, its ancestral home, Viognier is often blended with Syrah, a red grape, which helps balance Syrah’s peppery characteristics. Viognier also packs a nice dose of alcohol, typically over 13% so don’t be fooled by the fruitiness and think this is a hot summer afternoon wine. You’ll be drunk before you know it.
If you want a wine that pairs nicely with Asian foods including Indian-style curry and dishes with mild coconut, then Viognier will round out your meal nicely. It also compliments grilled chicken and fish, especially if topped with a fruit salsa. If you are eating lighter fare, like a cheese plate, then choose strong, sharp cheeses. Although great with food, Viognier has the weightiness to stand on its own as a drinking wine.
One of my domestic favorites is the Viognier from Leonesse Cellars in Temecula Valley, California.