W(h)ining: Australia Learns by Rôtie with Shiraz-Viognier

13 Apr

Three Rhône wines, one from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, that are all blends of red and white grape varieties.

I remember the first time I stumbled across an Australian bottle brandishing the Shiraz-Viognier label, and in my youthful ignorance, I was thrilled to have discovered what I thought was a whimsical Aussie conception.  Mixing red and white wines?  This must be a new idea!  After the initial embarrassment of eagerly sharing my brilliant discovery with a wine-guru confidante, who informed me of my mistake, and then eventually acquiring some formal sommelier education of my own, I came to learn that blending red and white wines, and often cofermenting the different grapes,  is a French winemaking tradition.

For many wine neophytes, like myself some years ago, French wine is a bit of a mystery because it does not label grape varieties, although this is changing to meet demands of new world consumers.  The Rhône valley, in the South of France, produces many blends of both red and white varieties, including some familiar Côtes-du-Rhône wines, and the Côte-Rôtie is only one of several Rhône appellations renowned for them.  In fact, the Côte-Rôtie is the original Shiraz-Viognier producer; these two varieties are, indeed, the two grapes of the appellation, but here the red variety goes by its original moniker, Syrah.

Three wines from the Côte-Rôtie, all Syrah-Viognier blends. The Rostaing (center) is worth $140 and the two Guigal wines (right and left) are both over $450 each.

While there are many Côtes-du-Rhône bottles available at varying prices at most wine shops, Côte-Rôtie wines available in BC are not for everyday sipping.  Also bear in mind, reader, that only some wines from the South of France are blends of both red and white varieties, if this post has influenced your shopping list.

Most red and white blends, like Shiraz/Syrah-Viognier, contain only a small amount of white, and French wines follow strict regulations; AOC law permits only 5% of white wine in Côtes-du-Rhône red blends, for example, and Côte-Rôtie Syrah-Viognier wines can include as much as 20% of the white variety.  But just a touch of Viognier goes a long way.  This unique variety typically adds a delightful perfume of stewed apricot and floral notes and softer palate to red grape varieties… Read more…

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One Response to “W(h)ining: Australia Learns by Rôtie with Shiraz-Viognier”

  1. Lee August 17, 2010 at 17:50 #

    One point to note is that under AOC regs in the northern Rhone the syrah and viognier are co-fermented not blended so the wine maker has to decide on the mix before the crush which may be more of an art than a science.

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