Saturday, July 23, 2011

Getting “Viggy” With It – Thoughts on Virginia Viognier

In the lead up to #WBC11 my excitement grew for many reasons, but the opportunity to taste Viogniers made by many of the Virginia wineries was a highlight. I love Viognier and always seek out and try new ones where I find myself.

Last week I had a sneak peek opportunity to taste 6 different styles of what may soon become Virginia’s official signature grape and wine. I had a mixed experience due to what was most likely issues with the shipping of the wines, and not the wines themselves. Read a bit farther for my thoughts on second tastes of those wines.

After two days of tasting Viognier on the ground and in their home environment I feel like I am starting to see two different styles trying to play together in the sandbox. The first, and the predominant, style is an oak influenced version where some or all of the wine is fermented and/or aged in oak, with a few seeing a fraction of MLF. The second style is a 100% stainless with no MLF and the most pleasing (to me of course) selections have a tad of residual sugar to help with the appreciation of the floral aromas. I found the latter style in many fewer instances and on several occasions was told the non-oaked version was not the typical for the maker and may or may not be a annual product.

I like the latter style more, and based on past experience it seems like the one that would be more recognizable by tasters from outside the region. To me the beautiful floral aromas that can be coaxed out of Vigonier are best finished with force with a tad of sugar in the mouth. I’ve had several made in this way from California and France and have also made it is in the same way several times; netting gold medals with very high scores.

On to the most common style. The oaked versions have not disappointed me and I can’t say I found any flaws in the ones I have tried. I am warming to this style, but will clearly state that you must approach it with different expectations. The potent nose filling floral aromas are not often found, and broadly the aromatics shift to baking spices, wood and dried fruits. As I have taken my tour of Virginia Viogniers I have found a wide range in the oaked vs. un-oaked fractions and I don’t believe I can clearly say that within this class there is a clear best practice. The versions that have some roundness and a little residual sugar do in fact evoke similarities to the un-oaked style, but the flavor profile of the finish will then be a bit more like figs or sweetbread.

I hope to try a few more (of both styles) before I go home which will give me a broad cast of characters to pick from for some direct shipping and future enjoyment.

Another great outcome of my magical Viognier tour has been the chance to try the wines from Barboursville and Blenheim again after my question marks from the pre-conference tasting. Furthermore I was able to do my tastings right in front of the winemakers share my honest feedback.  In both cases the makers knew my name before I shook their hand for the first time and also hoped I would give the wines a second chance. How cool! Both wines presented me with increased aromatics and richer flavors than the first time. Nothing I noted, and I checked my blog post, from that first tasting was found the second time around.

Several times today it was mentioned that Viognier may soon become the official grape and wine of Virginia. I don’t think this can be a bad thing, but with two styles clearly vying for attention from mom & dad, which will it be? Can it be the official wine of the state without making this choice? Maybe, but that could be dangerous.

I’d love to hear from others on what they think of the Viognier binge we have all been able to go on this week.



1 comment:

G.E. Guy said...

Jason - it was great meeting you this weekend! Stainless viogniers are what I've considered the "standard" for viggy since we started tasting wines in VA, but I'm really beginning to come around to some oak. 2010 was a brutally hot, dry year where the brix rocketed up. Between the high alcohol content and difficulties getting enough acid, this year some controlled oak has really added some needed structure.

I don't think you had a chance to try the 2010 Jefferson Vineyards Viognier while you were here. When the weather cools off, maybe we can do a "salad dressing" exchange.