There is light at the end of the Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Grigio 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. Wines from what is often called ‘alternative varieties’ produced in Australia, that deserve your attention. Viognier, Vermentino and Verduzzo are just three of these newcomers.
Albeit, by now 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. Likewise, Vermentino is now no stranger to Australian wine shelves. However, Verduzzo remains much harder to find.
Varieties such as these, are often overlooked. However, they have have found a warm welcome as they harmoniously suit the Australian lifestyle and climate.
Viognier has an incredible tale to tell …
Viognier has an incredible tale to tell. During the 1960s and 1970s, it had declined so much in popularity that the grape risked becoming almost extinct. Only miniscule quantities of wine were being produced in what could be considered its home region, Condrieu, in the Northern Rhone region of France. This was believed to be the only place in the world where it was still grown at the time.
Since this low point, this fragrant grape has recovered popularity and there has been a massive replanting effort across the world. Thanks to Robert Hill-Smith and Yalumba, 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, the vivacious alternative ….
Vermentino has become a popular chilled alternative to be in your glass this Summer. A Mediterranean grape from Sardinia and 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.
Vermentino is interestingly also found in Provence, where it is known as Rolle. There, it also is a companion to red wine grapes grenache and cinsault to make elegant rose wines. These blends have captured Australian winemaker’s attention and more wines reflecting this South of France style are becoming available each vintage.
Verduzzo, the future looks bright…
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 Australian Viognier, Vermentino and Verduzzo recommendations :
some of these wines can be found outside of Australia too …
Yalumba ‘Y Series’ Viognier AU$12 is an easy choice if you are looking to start your Viognier journey. Also look for the Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier and their very stylish Yalumba Virgilius.
Philip Shaw The Dreamer Viognier AU$22 – one of the fabulous cool climate viogniers where the fragrant peach and grapefruit take on a more savoury spice note.
Turkey Flat Barossa Valley White AU$25 There is a zestiness to this Marsanne Viognier Roussanne blend’s tropical nectarine fragrance, tempered with a honeyed softness and a creamy spiciness. As inviting as this wine is on the nose, it sings in the mouth.
Henschke Henry’s Seven AU$37 – Henry’s Seven is another of Henschke’s thoughtful blends. This one combines the best attributes from the Barossa which encompasses both Eden Valley and Barossa Valley. It is a blend of shiraz (73%) co-fermented with viognier (5%) plus some grenache (17%) and mataro/mourvedre (5%).
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier AU$110 – This particular blend became part of Clonakilla’s regular line up after Tim Kirk was inspired by a trip through Cote Rotie. It has earned its place as a benchmark for the style in Australia. Peppery and lushly ripe plum and cherry fruit and chocolate spice is ever so velvety smooth…
Also look for Rutherglen Estates Renaissance VRM (Viognier, Roussanne & Marsanne blend) – An elegant wine with presence & more texture than the pretty floral & stonefruit nose might suggest.
The Italian varietals
Olivers Taranga Vermentino AU$25 – There, sitting amongst Olivers Taranga’s extensive wine range where red wines hold fort, are two Italian white grape varieties. Vermentino and Fiano (which I have reviewed before). Both are excellent and worth seeking out.
Bremerton Vermentino AU$24 – A zesty lemon citrus twist to the usual white wine choices. This is a fine choice for kicking back with on a warm sunny day.
Dowie Doole Rosé AU$25 – Not only do Dowie Doole do a Vermentino white, they have also recently introduced a Grenache Vermentino rosé. This follows the style of the Provencal pinks. It is dry, silkily textured with ripe stonefruit and melon deliciousness.
Pizzini Verduzzo AU$28 – Lush lemon & pear with a satisfying fruit weight. A great food wine. You might need to contact Pizzini directly to purchase this wine.
Note: This veritable story of Viognier, Vermentino & Verduzzo was first published February 2012 and was updated February 2020.