The comeback of Viognier | Flagstone Wines
Legend has it that Viognier is an ancient grape originating in Dalamatia (present-day Croatia) and was brought to the Rhone Valley during the Roman occupation. One legend states that the Roman emperor Probus brought the vine to the region in 281 AD; another has the grape packaged with Syrah on a cargo ship navigating the Rhône river, en route to Beaujolais when it was captured, near the site of present-day Condrieu, by a local group of outlaws.
Viognier came perilously close to extinction in the mid-1960s when only a small handful of hectares remained in Northern Rhone.
The grape’s decline is largely attributed to a succession of calamity that saw the disastrous introduction of phylloxera aphids from North America in the 19th-century, a World War and vineyard abandonment, due to the difficulty and cost of cultivating the steep slopes where the vines were grown. The few hectares that remained nestled around Condrieu where a small group of enthusiasts used it to make cult wines.
Fortunately, word got out, inspiring growers in France and then in the New World to plant the exotic and rare variety. France is home to the bulk of the world’s Viognier, but it has surged worldwide, where, at its best, it yields rich, sensual and voluptuous wines.
It’s a distinctive and difficult grape to grow, which is part of its cult appeal. It has low, unpredictable yields and has to be picked fully ripe to develop the full extent of its characteristic heady aroma and extraordinary combination of perfume and body. Viognier is able to maintain its acidity through ripening, giving it a freshness, structure and wonderful textural intrigue.
Viognier was first planted in South Africa in 1997 and we’ve been making it since 2001. 2008 was the first time we felt confident we had produced a Viognier worth bottling on its own. This restrained, floral wine with excellent balance, called Word of Mouth, won the Best White Wine Award at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show!
When we craft our Word of Mouth Viognier our aim is to express the cultivars exotic and perfumy aromas. Each decision we make is a consideration grounded in experience and complemented by creativity. Each step, from picking and pressing the grapes, to tank fermentation and barrel selection is a deliberation in order to produce a wine that is both elegant and powerful.” ~ Gerhard Swart
Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to spread news and share a discovery, it’s how Viognier’s revival spread, and it’s how we would like Flagstone’s Viognier to become more widely known. A wine of such exciting substance that you can’t help but tell your friends about it.
Conveying this message through word of mouth carries its own ironic twist in that this white wine grape is somewhat of an articulatory challenge and its pronunciation often leaves people tongue-tied. At first glance one’s not quite sure if this word should roll, bounce or pop off the tongue, so by naming our Viognier, “Word of Mouth” we make it that much easier to order off a menu.
Add this to your trolley next time you shop.
RSP: R120 – available from Flagstone Cellar Door and selected wine retailers