Viognier. Even the name causes people problems. Vee-on-yay is how I say it, as do all the French people I've ever heard say the word.
Condrieu. Con-dree-uh. Where all the good viognier in the Upper Rhone valley comes from.
Chateau Grillet. Shat-oh Gree-yay. A tiny enclave within Condrieu, producing wines that are as wondrously decadent as they are punishingly expensive. They are not for the likes of us mere mortals. Mind you, given that I nearly forked out for a bottle of Cheval Blanc on my last trip to France, and that I'm a lot more interested in the wines of Condrieu than of St. Emillion, if I ever saw a bottle of Chateau Grillet I might not be able to control the throbbing in my wallet.
Anyway, my beef here is the insistence of wine writers on the rise of viognier. "A soon-to-be-massive cult grape", they oxymorinicise. "The new chardonnay", they insist, oblivious to the fact that pinot grigio is still the new chardonnay, owing to the fact that (a) its much easier to say and (b) its ability to make inoffensive wines that taste of very little. In the circular universe we inhabit, it may turn out that chardonnay will be the new chardonnay, given that many (most?) people still don't realise it is the Chablis grape (not a problem) and some who think it's a fitting name for their baby girl (big problem). "Chablis - the new chardonnay", the experts will urge. Daughters will be called Chablis - "She's a bit like Chardonnay, but slimmer and with more finesse"
So it was a bottle of Condrieu that ended up on the christmas table, and very nice it was too. Lots of chunky tartate crystals in the bottom, nicely balanced fruit and vegetals on the nose. The initial taste was a mineral hit that stunned the palate like a spoonful of mentholated Vicks, which then developed into the most seductive peach and tropical fruit palate, which got more pronounced into the long, delicately decaying finish. Did I really taste that? Another sip, another palate-stunning hit, another blossoming of fruit on the palate, another slow death. Extraordinary.
You see, this is what I want from my wine. An air of other-worldliness. The ability to surprise, to impress, and to put someone off with mentions of sediment, Vicks and decay. To keep it all to myself and my few long-suffering friends. Although predictably, I also love the easy, one dimensional, fruity vin de pays d'Oc viognier that I picked up at Morrisons this week. Anyone would enjoy it. Maybe even you?
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