What to drink…
This month Richard Hemming takes a look at the Viognier grape variety
Not that long ago, Viognier was nearly extinct. Its heartland is northern Rhône, specifically a small appellation called Condrieu, which lies approximately 40km south of Lyon. In Roman times, these fields were highly prized for viticulture, but by the 1960s the amount of Viognier planted had dwindled to just a few hectares.
Since then, however, it has become more and more popular, thanks to its distinctive and powerful fruit flavour. At its best, Viognier gives a pure and ripe scent of peaches and apricots, is usually full bodied and often high in alcohol.
Having such a strong personality means that not everyone is going to like it. Throughout the 1990s it was mooted as the natural successor to Chardonnay, but today fashions have swung away from big, blousy whites towards lighter, more citric styles such as Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
But if you like the idea of juicy, tropical fruit flavours in your wine, then put Viognier on your shopping list.
The best examples from northern Rhône don’t come cheap – Condrieu starts at around £25 nowadays, and only goes up from there. Thankfully, the Languedoc region produces better-value options, as ever, and Viognier thrives in its warm sunny climate.
Serve it cool but not ice-cold, and try serving alongside hearty dishes – or even a good strong cheddar.