Exotic, luscious, seductive, full-flavoured, musk, spice, apricots, peaches, citrus blossoms, lychees, mysterious and alluring - these are some of the enticing descriptors that the rare Viognier wines attract.
"Viognier is really starting to take off in Australia and Yalumba can take all of the credit for starting this particular revolution."
Matthew Jukes, UK Daily Mail Wine writer, author of 'The Wine List' and co-author of 'Taste: Food and Wine'. (2008)
It was on a visit to Condrieu, the home of Viognier in France's Rhône Valley, that Yalumba's Peter Wall first encountered Viognier. Once grown extensively south of Lyon, Viognier is now virtually confined to the tiny Condrieu and Côte Rôtie regions, with the best wines form Château-Grillet, a tiny appellation of Condrieu.
In 1980, Yalumba planted 1.2 hectares of Viognier in the Barossa - Australia's first commercial Viognier plantings. The Viognier grew quietly for 10 years, allowing the vines time to form regular cropping patterns and giving Yalumba a 'breaking-in' period to experiment with the variety. Today, Yalumba has the largest mature Viognier resource and the oldest commercial vines in the Southern Hemisphere. And the winery now has access to around 29 ha of Viognier from a range of viticultural regions.
"Viognier is incredibly challenging and demands handling with kid gloves," says Yalumba winemaker, Louisa Rose. "It's unpredictable, difficult to grow and the yields are low. The variety always has the ability to surprise you - one day the grapes on the vine are dull and flavourless yet the very next day there'll be the explosion of musky apricot characters that make it so appealing."
Yalumba makes four Viognier white wines - the fresh and citrusy Y Series Viognier, the Eden Valley Viognier, which is made in an 'up-front' style in terms of fruit flavour, with immediate varietal expression for early drinking. 'The Virgilius' is Yalumba's 'super-Viognier', a benchmark wine made using grapes from the older vines with the ability to benefit from bottle maturation. Also made by Yalumba is a Noble Pick Botrytis Viognier - a unique, and luscious dessert style wine.
"...Yalumba’s Virgilius improves every yearand is one of the few Aussies with any pretensions to an ability to age"
Ken Gargett, The Courier Mail - May 8th 2007
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Shiraz & Viognier
In 2001, Yalumba once again drew on the winemaking traditions of the Rhône and released a Shiraz and Viognier blended wine.
Yalumba Hand Picked Barossa Shiraz Viognier is a truly magical blend of wine, with its intensity of colour, heady aromas and luscious mouth-filling palate. The wine is made by co-fermenting Viognier grapes (usually between 5-15%) with Shiraz. It seemed a natural progression for Yalumba to release a Shiraz Viognier blend. After all, the winery is situated in the Barossa Valley, home to some of the world’s oldest Shiraz vines, and Yalumba is renowned for their pioneering work in Australia with Viognier.
The impetus for this alluring blend of varieties originated in the great French wine region in the Rhône Valley, Côte-Rôtie. Côte-Rôtie is often described as one of France’s richest and most seductive red wines. It is a wine that is highly sought after, mostly because of the addition of Viognier, which adds an extra dimension to the palate and bouquet together with an incredible brilliance of colour.
Co-fermentation involves some extremely complex chemistry and there is a dearth of detailed information about the process. Currently, research is being done on the subject by UC Davis and the Australian Wine Research Institute. Yalumba, too will be working hard to gain a deeper understanding of co-fermentation over coming vintages.
The co-fermentation theory/process can be explained as follows. Certain white varieties have significant levels of 'cofactors' which, when added to a red fermentation prior to fermentation, may enhance the soluble form of pigments (producing co-pigments) giving more colour and more anthocyanins*. It is thought that the quercetin, flavonoids and procyanidins present in Viognier seeds and skins may be such cofactors which, when fermented with Shiraz, result in the formation of more new wine pigments than would be the case with Shiraz alone.
*Anthocyanins – members of a complex group of natural organic chemical compounds responsible for the red to purple colours of grapes and wines (Jancis Robinson)
Yalumba have found that Shiraz wines made with some Viognier added to the fermentation, are very strong in colour and, importantly, appear to have more stable colour over time. The co-fermented Shiraz /Viognier wines also show enhanced mouthfeel, texture and vibrancy on the palate. Flavours and aromas are more lifted, due to the aromatic characters of the Viognier combining with the aromatics of the Shiraz.