95% Viognier, 5% Arneis; screwcap, 375ml RRP $20
People seem to tolerate my comments on wines that are not available- so here’s one at the start of its journey, for $20; less with careful shopping.
Viognier is a grape of Condrieu, where it makes distinctive, exotic dry white wines (and in more recent times, sweet wines too. More important is its contribution (in minor proportions)– with Shiraz- in Cote Rotie. In Australia, Yalumba has pioneered Viognier to make a dry white at varying price levels, from the humble but VGV “Y” series, through the Eden Valley range, then up to the Virgilius, (and sometimes a botrytis Viognier as well). Viognier is also used in some Cote Roties, with Clonakilla’s Shiraz Viognier generally regarded as Australia’s best.
Viognier may have vivid scents of ripe aprico -better examples show white peach- and the texture and mouthfeel make an enormous contribution to its appeal. Getting picking times correct seems critical to keep the wine brightly flavoured.
Arneis is an Italian grape variety- albeit one that I am not familiar with- but the textbook descriptors of pear, apricot and peach seem a good fit with Viognier. Arneis is another variety that is becoming hip throughout Australia, although vine age and familiarity with appropriate growing and winemaking mean we hasten slowly.
The number of wines that D’arenberg produces from its base in South Australia’s McLaren Vale is dizzying; and the labels have their own distinctive quirks, and stories.
For the last few years, they have produced several “Noble” (botrytis-affected wines) – and this is one, from along the road in the Adelaide Hills. Using Viognier in a botrytis wine is unusual, and this blend is a one-off; how much the 5% Arneis contributes is problematic.
It’s a bright gold lemon colour, with aromatics of apricot, marmalade, cumquat, and dusty nutmeg botrytis spices. The palate is intensely sweet (my guess was 150 g/l of residual sugar, but a peek at the spec sheet indicated 185 g/l). Most Australian sweet wines are flabby, but thankfully here is ample acidity to maintain freshness. The palate is also complex, and very dense with some tropical fruits- candied pineapple, and some lime pie to bolster the yellow peach and ripe apricot.
I was quite impressed, with the wine demonstrating excellent value, and providing an interesting “alternative” drink that will work beautifully with desserts from fruit platters through citrus-oriented pies.
Somewhere however, the “x-factor” is missing. Drink to – conservatively- 2020, and 91 points, but the sugar/acid balance makes this wine a bracing and instructive treat.