Katherine Donnelly: Not just a last resort
Published 19/02/2011 | 05:00
I could describe Viognier as an escape valve, but that would imply that I turn to it only in emergencies. Definitely not; I love it.
But I do find myself relying on it on occasion if the alternative is mass-produced Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
It is the exotic perfume, peach-iness, honeysuckle scent and body of Viognier, which is grown in pockets in France, Australia and Chile, that stands out.
It's a tricky grape. It needs to be left on the vine long enough to build up its heady aromas, but not so that it gets oily and loses necessary acidity.
It is a low-yielding vine, so it produces wines of concentration, with a certain opulence. Opulence is fine, but you also want it crisp, not flabby. Viognier can be fresh and well-rounded at the same time, and it flirts well with oak.
It's an easy wine to drink on its own, but a great choice with chicken or pork. The grape also has an affinity with rosemary, and is brilliant with seafoods and sweet 'n' spicy Asian and Indian cooking.