Monday, November 28, 2011

Vignoble de Viognier - California Honeymoon

On my wall, in my office, I have a framed map of the different wine regions inside of Bordeaux France entitled "Vins de Bordeaux".  I enjoy looking at it - and memorizing it - during work related conference calls that are sometimes less than challenging.  On the map, there is a description that begins "Le vignobles du Bordeaux est incontestablement celui qui produit les vins fins les plus prestigieux du Monde." (The vineyards of Bordeaux is incontestably producing the best finished, prestigious wines in the World). In the regions of France where I've had the chance to speak to the local business men and natives who love their wine - Macon, Burgundy, Beajolais, Champagne, Cognac, Bordeaux - they each express the same pride and sentiment that their region's wine, is the BEST wine, not only in France, but in the entire world.  The Spanish and Italians I've spoken to at length about their wine have the same tribal perspective.  From this map, and my understanding of the French language, I permanently stored in my mental hard drive that "vignoble" = "vineyard", which is completely true.  But unfortunately, my human brain does not compartmentalize so well, and often the data storage 'bleeds over" or "leaks" from one storage location to another.

This data storage "bleed over" was recently illustrated when Dr Desert Flower purchased a Californian white wine (pictured to the right) from Trader Joe's, labeled as a "Viognier".  I'd seen "Viognier" wines before on store shelves, and I had always dismissed them as a sad attempt of some English speaking vineyard trying to "sound French" - like taking a wonderful blend of grape varietals and calling it "Meritage" - nearly every single French wine, is a "Meritage" by the blending definition, but Californians and most Americans have a hard time wrapping their head around a blend as being "as good as" or better than a mono-cultured grape, so they labeled anything like a Bordeaux (a mix of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot, to name a few, depending on the appellation) as a "Meritage".  Pffft.  Sure Americans, call it whatever you like.  I'm not buying if it is overpriced and lower quality than what I can get from well regulated European vineyards.

So when I saw "Viognier" I INCORRECTLY thought that it was a feeble attempt of a Californian wine maker trying to again "sound French".  How wrong I was!  While vignoble =  vineyard, viognier DOES NOT equal vignoble.  With just a little bit of research, I found out that viognier grapes were originally grown in the Northern Burgundy region - a region famous for perfecting the very-difficult-to-grow pinot noir grape.  Viognier is a similar species to Gouais Blanc, which were grown in plots of land that Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir would have difficulty in thriving.  The Northern Rhone region Condrieu AOC is made up of 100% entirely Viognier grapes.  So that vernacular confusion aside, I was able to more fully appreciate the California Honey Moon.

California Honey Moon was a buttery, slightly acidic, somewhat dry, not overly sweet, lots of apricot & honey notes, Completely Non-grapefruity while wine that Dr Desert Flower and I fully enjoyed.  It was in the $5 range at Trader Joe's, and paired nicely with cheese, and soups earlier this month.  It was not over-powering, and had a wonderful feel and taste on the pallet.  We'll definitely be getting more of this wine in the future. Jason, at Jason's Wine Blog agrees (link here). Cork'd reviews concur (link here), as does Dezel at Vinespot in a blind taste testing (link here).

For those of you who may be looking for an inexpensive white wine to pair with lighter food, the California Honey Moon is highly recommended!  And... I will try to be more careful in my mental verbal data storage in the future.

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