Thursday, November 10, 2022

Two Very Fine Viogniers. One from the Rhone, the other from South Africa’s Paarl.

Two Very Fine Viogniers. 

One from the Rhone, 

the other from South Africa’s Paarl.

Ferraton Viognier Collines Rhodaniennes (IGP) 2019, 13.5%

€19.50 Ardkeen Grocery Store, Waterford// Little Green Grocer,

Kilkenny// Manning's, Ballylickey// The Olive Branch, Clonakilty.

This mellow full bodied Viognier, from the Northern Rhone, comes in a lovely bright yellow colour with green hints. Apricot (with pear and orange) plus floral notes combine to promise much as they lead the aromas. And the promise is well delivered on the cheering palate, soft and thick, fresh and vibrant, all the way to a very pleasant fruity finish. 

It comes unostentatiously (it is after all the relation and neighbour of the ultra-famous, and much more expensive Condrieu), laden with a sack full of delicious scents and flavours. Very Highly Recommended.

Collines Rhodaniennes more or less covers the entire Northern Rhone, stretching from Montélimar (well-known for its nougat) in the south to Lyon (capital city of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region) in the north, and its IGP replaces Vin de France. 

The fruit for this Ferraton is grown on the right bank of the Rhône, along the foothills of northern Ardèche. The terroir is composed of granite and decomposed granite. Traditional agriculture methods are in use and the harvest is carried out manually when the grapes reach optimum ripeness. 

It is recommended to serve this wine at 12-13°C as aperitif, with foie gras, with salads, with grilled meat and all fish dishes. Wine Folly suggests dishes flavoured with almonds, citrus, stewed fruits, and aromatic herbs such as Thai Basil and tarragon. And, with its apricot influences, you could also try it, as Grapes & Wines indicate, with pork or chicken with an apricot stuffing. Also, the Armenian dish of trout and apricot should be another match.

I often wonder does the name of this grape put newcomers off buying a bottle, especially if you have to pronounce it. Here’s how: vee-own-yay. Much of the Viognier we come across here in Ireland is from France but it is grown around the world and finding favour in Australia and California in particular. And we've got another good one below from South Africa.

Charles Back

Fairview Viognier, Paarl South Africa 2020, 13.5% 

RRP €24.99 The 1601 /

The South African Viognier by Fairview has a bright light gold colour with exotic fruit aromas along with subtle oak notes. It is vibrant and refreshing in the mouth, rich and complex with apricot shining through, peach and lime in there as well. A lively acidity contributes to the balance along with the subtle oak. It feels close to creamy (thanks in part to its time on lees). And there’s a long lasting finish. Very Highly Recommended.

The grapes were hand picked in the early morning and whole bunch pressed. Only the free run juice was used. Sixty per cent of the Viognier was fermented in French oak barrels (20% new) with the remaining 40% fermented in stainless-steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine was left to mature on lees for eight months, with regular stirring, prior to being blended for additional texture and body.

The fruit is sourced from the vineyards at Fairview farm in Agter-Paarl. These trellised Fairview vines are grown on the slopes of Paarl mountain, on decomposed granite soils. Summer canopy management practices including leaf removal and shoot positioning ensure optimal sunlight penetration into the canopies.

I heard owner Charles Back and wine-maker Charl du Plessis, in a Zoom presentation the year before last, say the high cropping level is a problem. “We need to manage the canopy. Treat it as a red grape early on, the aim always is to get the correct balance between the alcohol and the tannins.” I reckon they got it spot-on in 2020.

That year, unlike previous vintages, was very good, not just for the region, but for South Africa in general. Winters were cool with sufficient rainfall. Spring was mild and summer saw warmer temperatures allowing fruit to ripen at a steady rate. The Viognier was harvested between the 2nd - 7th February.

The Fairview website, naturally enough, is proud of the achievements of owner Charles who  was awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the International Wine Challenge in 2014. He is a true pioneer of the region, credited with bringing Mediterranean varieties to the Cape. 

“One of the (many) gifts that Charles Back has brought to Cape wine was, and still is, Fairview Viognier. Planting the mother block of this French grape in 1994, Charles and team have nurtured this variety to bring you a gorgeously aromatic and refined wine. A must try!”


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