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1999 Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier
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- Closure: Cork
VIOGNIER, THE WHITE HOLY GRAIL!
The search for the definitive Pinot Noir has become an obsession with some wine drinkers, and for winemakers it has become the ultimate expression of wine making skill.Viognier has become the white obsession of winemakers. That obsession has part been fired up by the fact that the grape variety was practically extinct, with only a tiny amount grown in the Northern Rhone. The scarcity of plantings has in part been due to the fact that the clones are biologically unstable, and don’t seem to produce for very long.The origins of the variety are somewhat unclear with some authorities claiming that Yugoslavia was the place of its origin.The other problem with the vine is that it is a poor yielder and has been traditionally susceptible to downy mildew. Given all its natural problems, it’s hardly surprising that it lost favour, until more stable clones were propagated.
So what is the big attraction – on its own, the vine, in cool climates produces a very aromatic wine with a perfumed nose which is even more exotic than Gewurztraminer. Every time we’ve tasted the famous Chateau Grillet – the nose has been as mysterious as the wine is rare, with a range of aroma that can best be described as super ripe, exotic, tropical fruits that are verging on the turn of going off. Again the fascination as with Pinot Noir is about achieving a counterpoint. That rare moment of balance between extraordinary and ordinary. The moment of truth that reveals exceptional viticulture, terroir and winemaking skills – to capture the balance is as exhilarating for a winemaker as climbing to the top of Everest for a mountaineer. It’s the thrill of the climb that pushes the winemaker to the point of suffering great pain in order to achieve great vinous success.
The Viognier vine is of medium vigour. The leaves are medium in size, and have a downy underside. The bunches of grapes are also medium in size, conical, winged and compact. The berries are small, slightly oval, white and thick skinned and have a slightly musky flavour.Viognier is drought resistant, and has to be laboriously cane pruned, and after all that, its bottle life is limited to a few years, after which the bewitching odours of youth disappear and the flabbiness of old age moves in quickly. Beauty is present, for but a fleeting moment, and the haunting aroma is lost, but the memory lingers.
In the northern parts of the Rhone Valley, Viognier is permitted to be blended with Shiraz – the only French Appellation which allows such a marriage. The red wines of the Cote Rotie encapsulate the moment of youth of the white wine and embrace its qualities in the powerful arms of pepper, blackberry and liquorice, but the aroma is unique.
Tasting Notes: A magnificent example of the variety. Bright deep straw colour. Classic Viognier with perfumed lifted nose of exotic fruits, lychee, guava, tropical fruits and musk. Full bodied palate, exotic fruit flavours, aniseed, spice, musk, apricot and apricot kernel, which gives the wine a slightly bitter end palate finish. Outstanding length and persistence with very long aftertaste of ripe fruits, lychee, spice and bitter apricots. Cellar another 1-2 years.