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As its reputation grows in local wine circles, David Pike wonders whether Viognier is going to be the next

big thing.

VIOGNIER is beginning to gain a reputation with winemakers across Australia, with new plantings in recent years and a number of new labels likely to increase the variety’s popularity. In fact the demand for this variety has been so great that, in August next year, the first symposium dedicated to this fabulous variety will be held in this country.

Yalumba was responsible for the first trial plantings of the variety in the late 1970s and the first commercial planting in 1980. Today there are 30 labels currently available from wineries across Australia. Here in the west, look for Happs, which has an example of this wine (albeit in small quantity) through cellar door.

Viognier has its origins in Bosnia, but it is the Rhone Valley in France were its has made its home. It is in this part of the world that Chateau Grillet, regarded as the world’s most famous producer of Viognier wines, is found.

Many of the Viognier wines made in the Rhone Valley are best drunk at about four years of age, however the variety does age very well and there have been examples that live for decades.

The Viognier grape’s varietal characters centre on their seductive bouquet. Apricots and apricot nectar, blossom, musk, peaches and pears are some of the popular descriptions. The grape itself is relatively difficult to grow, low yielding and late ripening.

The Viognier grape has a thick skin, which protects it from many diseases but, due to its late-ripening nature, it sometimes is affected by botrytis.

This style of wine really deserves to be served with food. In fact many examples will often disappoint if drunk without something to accompany them. Many Thai dishes suit, as do soft cheeses. Pork dishes also are good matches food this style of wine.

Here is a collection of wines made from Viognier that I have tasted through over the past few days. I enjoyed these wines and have long been a fan of this variety. it will be interesting to see if Viognier makes it on its own in the mainstream market place or if it will hang out with rose and riesling still awaiting public acceptance.

Yalumba ‘The Virgilius’ Eden Valley Viognier 2000 rrp $49.95 19/20 points

Every now and then you find a wine that makes you go week at the knees. This Viognier is one of those wines. hedonic aromas of musk, apricots, ginger and spice. Once you slide some of this on to your palate you find plenty of zesty fruit with appealing acidity and complexity. Tropical stone fruit entwines with a ginger-like spice and a touch of apricots. There is so much to find and enjoy in this very sexy wine that has a length of palate we all desire.

Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2000 rrp $24.95 18/20 points

Aromas that entice … fresh white peaches and a touch of apricot nectar and a musk spice combine to lead you to a palate that has plenty of fruit that shows a viscous and lush mouth feel of peach and tropical flavours with integrated acidity and a long finish.

Mitchelton Airstrip Marsanne Rousanne Viognier 2000 rrp $24.95 17/20 points

There is a captivating blend of aromas in this unusual Aussie blend. Floral hints with peach, apricot and oak combine to show real person-ality. The palate is complex with stone fruit flavours and is showing persistence on the palate and length. A well made and intriguing wine.

Tahbilk Viognier 2000 rrp $15.95 17.5/20 points

Pungent perfumed fragrant aromas leap from this fantastic value Viognier. The palate displays voluptuous flavours of apricots, peaches and stone fruits.

Trentham Estate Viognier 2000 rrp $17.95 17.5/20 points

Here’s another very good example of this style of wine at a competitive price.

It features ripe peachy aromas with fragrant varietal characters.

The palate displays ripe and rich stone fruits with soft acidity and refinement and finishes long into the afternoon.

E Guigal Condrieu 2000 rrp $82.95 19/20 points

You will be hard to please if you don’t enjoy this fabulous French number.

Savoury aromas with peach, apricot nectar and oak hints.

The palate is scrumptious and lively in that French kind of way, while apricots, nectarines and pears all make an appearance. The acidity is integrated and the mouth feel is persistent and shows enormous length on the finish.

There is plenty of life left in this wine, which is a delight.

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