Viognier wine: Here’s some silky favourites to choose from

Co-operative Truly Irresistible Viognier review

LET me tell you about a wine called Veronica. Well, actually, it’s not called Veronica at all. It’s called viognier.

It’s Veronica because I bought my workpal  a glass and a few days later,  trying to remember the name, she plumped for Veronica.   We giggled.  So now I ask “do you want a glass of Veronica”?  “Yes, please,” says my workpal. “Only one though.” (Yeh, right.)

Once I asked for viognier and the bar didn’t have any. So I went for albarino and that was a hit with my pal  too. But that’s another tale.

So. Veronica / Viognier. I  love it.  The premium whites  come from its heartland in the northern Rhône. Look out for Condrieu and Château-Grillet and be prepared to pay for it. In the same region, viognier is  blended with syrah in Côte-Rôtie where it adds a floral lift.  Actually, it’s mainly added because enzymes in viognier help to stabilise the wine.

That’s stuff you might not give a hoot about. What is interesting (well, I think so) is that in the 70s viognier was close to extinction.

Thanks to some enthusiastic winemakers it was lifted to a new level, and is now planted in many parts of the New World as well as its native France.

Apricot, peaches, spice, and a silky mouthfeel are the signatures of Veronica. Sorry, viognier. Here’s a small selection.

 The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Viognier review
The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pays d’Oc Viognier 2013

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pays d’Oc Viognier 2013,    (£8.99). This French wine has just won  bronze  at the International Wine Challenge 2014. It is a lovely balance of fragrant, elegant, creamy apricot. My  favourite description is from IWC judges who describe it as “cuddly and succulent”.

Now to South Africa (the Western Cape) and Hope Springs Viognier 2013 (£8.99, www.virginwines.co.uk). This was my Eurovision wine, not very Euro I know, but even so.  There was peach, but lemon too. A bit friskier and tighter than the other viogniers I tried.  It had the fruity depth  to match our tra-la-la  shoo-wop TV dinner of Thai green chicken curry.

Guigal Cotes du Rhône Blanc 2012 (from £11.99 at vintagemarque.com, Amps Fine Wines, Noble Green Wines). This is a five-grape blend with viognier leading the way at 70%.  There’s  rounded peaches,  silk-like and tactile as some touch-me plump fruits in a grocers;  but it has crispness, lift and perfume  from other grapes which include  rousanne and marsanne.

Secreto de Viu Manent Viognier 2012 (Spirited Wines, £10.64 and Oddbins, £11.25) Apparently the “secreto”  range has a closely guarded secret related to “land, proportions, and balance”. The grapes come from the Colchagua Valley in Chile, and this is 85% viognier, with 15% … well,  a secret. What you get after a nose hover of pears and apricots, is a mouthbomb of tropical fruit, with those creamy, silky sensations once again.

Also in my glass…

…. well the football season has finished.  I’m very giddy. My team has been promoted. Burnley that is. Up the Clarets. I celebrated with sparkles as it seemed fitting. The Society’s Cava Reserva Brut (The Wine Society, £8.50)  is made  in Penedès, the heart of cava country near Barcelona. It uses the traditional cava grapes parellada, macabeu and xarel.lo with a touch of chardonnay. Cava is fab.

This one was fragrant with  blossom and apples and on the palate was a soft fizz of apples  and a tickly lemon  finish. Perfect for summer.

The society has an offer on a six-bottle summer sparklers mixed case, £79 saving  £8.95,  which ends on June 15 or while stocks last.

First published in the saturday magazine, May 17 2014

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Freixenet and Mia range looks to the younger market

Freixenet Mia Sparkling wine

I HAD a rotten day  the other day and  was in need of comfort.

I stood in a supermarket  aisle in front of something  which declared itself to be fresh and crisp. I wasn’t in the fruit and vegetable section. It also had  “sparkling”  on the label. I  certainly wasn’t near the   household cleaning  products.

Crikey no.

It goes without saying I was in the wine aisle; just as well as this column is about wine and not furniture  polish or kiwi fruit.

After some pondering my  eyes drifted towards Mia  Light & Crisp (£9.75, Asda).

It’s  a very pretty bottle, but I’m not normally  tempted by girlie things.  I  was interested because a  couple of years ago I met  the ambassador of the  Mia range, Gloria Collell, when I visited the parent company Freixenet in the heart of cava country  near Barcelona.

At that point, Gloria  had been developing two simple fruity still wines, Mia – Signature  No.1 (red, tempranillo  grapes) and Mia –  Signature No.2  (white), a  blend of  the cava grapes  macabeo, xarel-lo  and parellada.

Gloria is a stylish,  classy  woman, with  a determination  clear for all to see, but also elegantly feminine, in that effortless way of    continental ladies. Gloria developed her Mia still wines with modern women in mind, but was also staying close to her roots Freixenet Mia Sparkling wineusing Spanish grapes.

It’s difficult not to be  won over by wines when the person who has created  them  is enthusing and  tasting alongside. So I saw the sparkling  Mia  on the supermarket shelf and thought “Gloria.  What’s she up to now?” Freixenet introduced two  sparklers to the Mia range to appeal to younger wine  drinkers after research   showed a  trend for  drinks  such as fruity ciders.

There’s  two sparkling  Mia wines, Mia Light & Crisp (11.5%  abv, the one I bought) and  Mia Fruity & Sweet Moscato (7% abv).   Freixenet wants them to appeal to the “young  consumer’s palate”.

So my wine. It is a blend  of  macabeo and airen –  which, believe it or not, is  the world’s most widely  planted white grape.

There’s apples and pears   on the nose,   citrus  reminiscent of a cava, and a lemon  aftertaste.

I wasn’t  blown away, but I wasn’t  disappointed.  If Freixenet have laid claim to a  particular marketplace then  I can  see girlies drinking  this Mia.

So Freixenet will  have done their job.

Gloria Collell, Mia wines
Gloria Collell, Mia wines

But I had chatted over a  fascinating  lunch with  Gloria while tasting amazing cavas with style and depth;  they are the  kind of wines I  would love Gloria to  make for me.  I am, after  all, a modern woman.   (No sniggering at the  back please.)

 Also in my glass
By contrast, a  classy Champagne, and by  further  contrast, a dull  pinot noir.

Champagne  Bruno Paillard  Brut Premier  Cuvée (RRP   £44.99, Selfridges, lokiwine.co.uk and www.spiritedwines.co.uk).   Bruno Paillard is considered by some to be “Champagne’s  best kept secret”. Only the finest  grapes (a classic blend of  pinot noir,  pinot meunier   and chardonnay)  are  selected. Brioche on the  nose, but with an understated  subtle  elegance; think Audrey  Hepburn. A fizz which fizzed longer than most and  apples to taste, cut through  with some minerality.

Morrisons Pinot Noir (£4.99) Sometimes I wonder if it’s  me. Described as  “brimming with fresh  raspberry and cherry  flavours” I found this  thin  on the fruit and dry and  dull on the palate, with not much of an after-taste.

If it is me, then by all  means let me know.

Published in the saturday extra magazine April 5, 2014