There is light at the end of the Sauvignon Blanc soaked tunnel. While I enjoy the odd glass of Sauvignon Blanc, I have made it my mission to remind everyone that there are more interesting white wines that deserves your attention. Albeit, Viognier is not really that new with Yalumba, one of Australia’s First Families of Wine, bringing it to our attention in the early 2000’s with their usual craftsmanship. However, Vermentino & Verduzzo are much harder to find on our shelves & wine lists, although coincidentally Yalumba is part of the vanguard developing Vermentino here as well.
Viognier has an incredible tale to tell. It had declined so much in popularity that the mid Twentieth century saw the grape becoming almost extinct. Only miniscule quantities of wine were being produced in its home region, Condrieu, in the Northern Rhone in France. This was the only place in the world where it was grown at the time. I am happy to report that since then, this fragrant grape has recovered popularity & there has been a massive replanting effort across the world with much of that effort here in Australia. There are a number of great producers of straight Viognier here plus it is the prettier partner in a blend whether it be a Shiraz Viognier partnership or a white blend. Look for wines that are fresh, fragrant with stonefruit with delicate generosity rather than being over ripe with too much oiliness. In the best Shiraz Viognier blends, it adds a floral pepper lift plus texture & body to the blend.
Vermentino is going to be the hot varietal to be in your glass this Summer. A Mediterranean grape from Sardinia, its close French neighbour Corsica and other regions in Italy that has found a welcome home here. It produces dry, often bone dry, zesty wines with stonefruit through to tropical fruit ripeness. With a refreshing acid hit, it is a natural companion to food particularly with fish & seafood.
The North-eastern Italian grape Verduzzo is a varietal to seek out. I cannot say that it will reach the heights of Viognier, but it could easily become the Vermentino of the future. At the moment there are only a handful of wineries producing wine from their vines scattered throughout Victoria & NSW. Pizzini is showing some mastery with this grape with their fresh & lively lemon & nutty pear creation with a lush mid palate. If this is any indication, Verduzzo has great potential that has only just begun to be explored.
Here are some recommendations:
Rutherglen Estates Renaissance VRM (Viognier, Roussanne & Marsanne blend) RRP $29 – An elegant wine with presence & more texture than the pretty floral & stonefruit nose might suggest.
Running with Bulls Vermentino 2010 RRP $19 – Silky, crisp with heaps of street appeal in its peach & pear nuttiness. Price will not leave you feeling trampled either.
Taylors Winemakers Project Vermentino 2011 RRP $18 – Crisp pear with citrusy edge. Lovely fruit weight.
Pizzini Verduzzo RRP $25 – Lush lemon & pear with a satisfying fruit weight. A great food wine.
The Lane ‘Block 5’ Shiraz Viognier 2010 RRP $26 – Ever so fragrantly perfumed with intense red cherry & blackberry fruit & spice. Softly generous.