This week’s wine is Viognier (Vee-aa-nyei), an aromatic white grape that originates in the Rhône appellation of western France. It is commonly used in a blend with the red grape, Syrah, and the resulting wines bear the same name as the area in the northern Rhône they originate from, Côte Rôtie. This blend can contain upto 20% Viognier per French wine law (but is typically a fraction of this maximum) and is used to add extra richness as well as complexity to Syrah. In the area of Condrieu, Viognier is made into a single varietal wine. Outside of France, Viognier is commonly made into single varietal wines. Viognier is a warm climate grape which leads to higher levels of sugar produced in the grape at harvest. This sugar is then fermented into alcohol. This process results in the wines having a high alcohol content.
I have selected 2 different bottles from 2 different regions and paired them both with the same bacon cream scallops. The first is from Paso Robles, California. Paso is on the central California coast and, as a result of a coastal mountain range blocking many weather systems, has a hot mediterranean climate during the growing season. The alcohol content these growing conditions create leads to a richer, fuller feeling in the mouth. This perception makes it great to pair with mild dishes that contain cream sauces, rich seafoods like shrimp or scallops, and foods with distinct spices like curry, ginger or saffron.
The second bottle is from the Condrieu region.This region lies at a latitude further north than Paso and has a cooler climate. The alcohol content reflects this as the Condrieu has a slightly lower listed alcohol content, 14% vs 14.5%. The Condrieu palate is far more complex than the bottle from Paso. Condrieu has notes of honeysuckle, wet stone, salinity, pineapple, and ripe peaches, while the bottle from Paso tastes of peaches, honeysuckle, pear, orange blossom, and a touch of minerality. Both choices were complementary to the seared scallops with cream. There was enough acid in the wines to tame the richness of the bacon rendering based parmesan cream sauce. The subtle floral notes of the peppercorns accentuated the floral notes of the wines. The complexity of the Condrieu is quite notable compared to the other when tasted consecutively but both are good representations of what the variety has to offer.