Category Archives: Viognier

Nov 11 2010

Botrytis Viognier: Worth Hunting for!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By

In my last post, Part 2, The Riverina Shines with Some of the Best Botrytised Wines!, I talked about the wonderful botrytis semillons being produced in the Riverina, but I didn’t want to give you the impression that winemakers in different regions of Australia aren’t making excellent botrytised wines in other varieties.

In fact, at this year’s International Sweet Wine Challenge, the winner of both the Best Young Sweet – Other Varieties and Blends and International Sweet Wine of the Year was the Yalumba FSW8B Botrytis Viognier 2009 (rrp. $21.95), made by senior winemaker Peter Gambetta.

As was discussed in Viognier: A Difficult Grape makes a Great Wine!, viognier makes a very aromatic and full-bodied wine. In fact, Jancis Robinson refers to it as ‘the hedonist’s white grape variety’. No wonder it’s a perfect candidate for sweet, full flavoured botrytis wine. But as Robinson also rightly observes, it is often ‘the vitner’s headache’ – temperamental, low yields and slow development of its characteristic heady aromas challenge even the most experienced vitner. (Viognier by Jancis Robinson,, 3 September 2008)

Yalumba, the first winery to plant viognier in Australia thirty years ago, has demonstrated that with ingenuity and persistence very fine viognier can be made in Australia even of the botrytised kind.

Wrattonbully in the Limestone Coast area in the south eastern part of South Australia provides the ideal climate for Yalumba’s botrytis viognier. Fruit ripens naturally with high sugar and flavours in the warm summer. Vines are grown to encourage a dense canopy, as it reduces air flow and encourages the infection and growth of  botrytis cinerea, which is initiated and sustained by the dewy, cool mornings and sunny days of the long autumn. The grapes are difficult to press and several pressings are required to … Read the rest

Oct 10 2010

Viognier: A Difficulty Grape makes a Great Wine!

Posted on October 10, 2010 | By

In yesterday’s post, Wine of the Week: Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier I talked about how Clonakilla had transformed perceptions of Australian Shiraz with its ingenious blend of Shiraz and Viognier – inspired by a style of wine associated with Northern Rhône’s Côte-Rôtie. By co-fermenting just a small percentage of Viognier with Shiraz, Tim Kirk of Clonakilla lifted his wine’s aromatic profile and added a new dimension to the palate structure, creating a wine that was lighter and more elegant than traditional Australian Shiraz.

So what are the attributes of Viognier, an enigmatic rare white grape variety, that made its addition to Clonakilla’s Shiraz so special?

A little bit of research revealed that Viognier, the only permitted grape of the tiny Northern Rhône appellations of Condrieu and Château-Grillet, was almost extinct in the mid 1960s. In fact, the revival of the grape’s fortunes has much to do with the efforts and persistence of Australian and Californian winemakers!

In Australia, Viognier was first planted by Yalumba in 1980. At the time, Peter Wall, Yalumba’s Director of Wine, had just returned from a trip to Condrieu where he became convinced that the exotic grape variety was suited to the winery’s vineyards in the Eden Valley. Yalumba used clones from three vines of 1968 stock, which they believe were imported by the local Nurioopta viticultural station in 1968.  Even by the 1980, only 20 hectares of Viognier were left in Condrieu, so sourcing new clones directly from France was not a viable option at the time.

Managing Director Robert Hill Smith calls Yalumba’s 30 year relationship with the grape a “labour of love”.  At its best, single variety Viognier is a brilliant clear golden yellow with intense flowery (violets) and fruity (apricot, white peaches and citrus) aromas interwoven with honeysuckle scents and minerality. A complex, … Read the rest