When spring starts to segue into summer, a different style of wine is called for — one with a bit of fragrance that seems to mark the change of seasons and with enough personality to work both as an aperitif as well as with food.
Viognier, which fits the bill to a T, was once a secret known only to connoisseurs. The grape variety was brought to the Rhone Valley by the Romans. The tiny appellation known as Condrieu made a wine of 100 per cent viognier, prized for its perfume and elegance. Winemakers all over the world started experimenting with the fragrant grape. There has been an explosion of viognier in the past 10 years.
Not all of it is good as this is a difficult grape to grow, which can produce “oily” or overpoweringly perfumed wines. But in skilled hands the results can be stunning, and great value for wine of this quality.
Unsurprisingly, one of the best viogniers comes from the very borders of Condrieu territory. Pierre Gaillard’s
Les Gendrines has all the Rhone Valley elegance you would hope for, and at less than £15 a bottle when you buy a case of six from Berry Brothers (www.bbr.com).
Even better value is the kosher Israeli viognier from Dalton, currently £13.99 — a discount of £3 — from kosherwineuk.com. It has notes of peaches, honey and sunshine without being in any way overblown.
These well-priced wines have serious competition from a couple of contenders able to produce good viognier at almost unbelievable prices. For less than £7 a bottle you can pick up Domaine Mandeville Viognier Pays d’Oc from Marks & Spencer, or Trivento viognier made in the Tupungato region of Argentina from Waitrose.
The former wine is rich, the latter lighter, with a lovely hint of lemon.
Both work beautifully with salmon or other fish, particularly if the fish is served in a buttery sauce, and the Trivento is a steal on promotion until May 29 at £5.59. It also works well when drunk on its own.