Does Viognier age?
Now this was no everyday Viognier. Yalumba's flagship "The Virgilius" is a pretty special drop at around £30 a bottle. Nonetheless, the answer's yes, it's got legs and can go the distance
The ability to age gracefully, evolve into something greater than you were when you started out, is something we humans hold in high regard.
With wine it's seen as the ultimate goal. If you can create a bottle that will continue to not just age, but improve, with time, then you've hit upon wine's Holy Grail.
That's easier to do with reds than whites. They contain tannins; the word itself comes from the use of wood tannins to turn animal skins into long-lasting leather.
It seems appropriate that Louisa Rose (Yalumba's Chief winemaker, who has sometimes been called the 'Queen of Viognier') and the company decided upon a Roman poet after which to name this special Australian Viognier.
Some 2,000 years ago Virgilius was penning poems for Rome's first emperor, Octavius. Before Christ was born in fact, from 70-19 BC. Remarkable, isn't it? We tend to forget that wine's been enjoyed for aeons.
Yalumba's been working with the variety since 1970, deciding after visiting Viognier's stronghold in the northern Rhone (if you chance upon a wine called 'Condrieu', try it) to help save it from extinction by taking it down under.
They have a vine nursery, and now there are eight different clones of Viognier growing in the Virgilius vineyard on Flaxmann Valley Road in the Eden Vally (a sub-region of the larger Barossa).
For some reason, many of us seem to struggle with the pronunciation. Not sure why, when Sauvignon Blanc, that other variety with a "g" in the middle and lots of vowels, hasn't caused the New Zealand wine industry any harm.
'Vee-on-yay'; that's how you say 'Viognier'. Easy. Now you've no excuse not or order it.
Sure, 10 years trapped in the bottle and the honeysuckle/peach/apricot characters you'd expect from a younger Viognier have lessened. It's not as "in-your-face" if you like.
But thanks to factors like being sealed under screwcap (no iffy cork issues to worry about), being fermented using "wild" yeasts to start with, and then in French oak, it has had a head-start in life over many a lesser Viognier.
Aged for another 10 months in the same barrels on the lees (the tiny bits of of yeast cells and matter caused by fermentation), with regular stirring, it had all the know-how spent upon it that winemakers know about for a long life ahead.
Darker in colour than a young wine (white wines get darker with age; red wines get lighter), there were still hints of the apricot and white flower blossom. Visibly more textural when you swirled it in the glass, with a broad, mouth-filling flavour profile, and acidity had held up to give it a nicely refreshing dry finish.
So, the answer to the question "does Viognier age" is yes; but make sure it's a top example, not just a run-of-the-mill wine. That, however, goes for every wine you might want to cellar. Things that last generally cost more than lesser examples.