there are some new reviews oozing though here, but we're not deckin em up all pretty til we work out an otherwise unborn style for this sleazy rube we call drankster


that's a George Grainger Aldridge cartoon ... obviously a pre-screwcap man

22 August 2008


Ngeringa Adelaide Hills Viognier 2007

$26 (375ml. only); 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94 points

If you know of a better Australian viognier than this, I’ll share the cost of getting Chopper Reid round here to teach me the truth. After an acrid top note like a shot of snuff ground from the spring meadows and the sandstones and schists in the Mount Barker piedmont there’s a quiet pond of pear and apricot and a little fresh ginger, poaching gently with cloves, with a crême caramel pouting alongside, as tender as a breast. In the rolling around the mouth and swallowing division, it bungs on the unction, which is abundant in warm and hot area viognier, especially if you let it hang. It turns to peach syrup. But from such cool slopes as Ngeringa, at mercifully modest alcohol, it’s a stunning rarity. All that lovely natural acid! And then the tannin rolls in, as grainy and parching as that first whiff of the country when we put the window down. Right now, in this bonnie spring, under the burgeoning moon. Biodynamic breakthrough by Erinn and Janet Klein. Kangaroo Island paddock chook steady stewed in shiraz barrel lees with fresh leafy herbs, whole onions, little beetroots and garlic ... fresh baguette, lots of butter and peppery water cress. Open the bugger, pour two, light up a Lucky and wait for Chopper.

Domaine de Triennes Sainte Fleur Viognier 2004

$32; 13.5% alcohol; cork; 93 points

An alliance of kick-bottom Burgundy royals grow and make this amazing biodynamic wonder in the Vin de Pays du Var appellation in the south of France. This is what viognier is supposed to be like. The bouquet is NOT all apricot, but as much carambola, dill, and bitter melon, with, yes, an apricot kernel undertow. The wine is surprisingly viscous after those verdant insinuations, and has an unusual broad bean flavour, like peeled baby beans braised in butter. Its tannin is as green and furry as the skin of those beans. Perfect for artichoke hearts in cool pork cassoulet.

Tim Smith Adelaide Hills Viognier 2007

$27; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points

In the Bible, there’s quite a lot of anointing with oil going down. This is the oil for me. I’ve overchilled it, which was dumb, but it’s fun watching the poor brute exude its whiffs from hibernation. Pears to begin, pure and simple. Verdant, like bitter melon. It has lovely, cuddly, creamy flesh, like the sort one dreamed of finding under fluffy jumpers reeking of Gossamer. It’s long. It slides around the mouth like a shiitake mushroom. Then that triple-X vio tannin crawls out, drying the tongue like raw oatmeal does. I yearn for bouillabaisse. 24hrs later: it smells more like a shotgun wedding custard.

Yalumba The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier 2007

$50; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+++ points

Louisa Rose thinks this is pretty much the viognier bee’s knees. She’s had a special lead crystal glass - rather corpulent, with a tight high neckline - “mouth-blown” for it. Given the Wagnerian vintage, it takes a while to waken, even in the mouth-blown glass. I wonder what was on the blower’s breath as my glass was blown, while I sniff this big gin-and-cucumber apparition gradually awakening, perfectly viscous and unctuous, almost lugubrious, if not bombastic, like a gin without much juniper or tannin. It’s a big hot mother, and it needs big stuff. Gutsy mussels. The glass is $30 at Yalumba.

Tallarook Viognier 2006

($23.30; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points)

Luis Riebl’s a friggin’ genius. Unlike most winemakers, he knows vio’s more than canned peach syrup. He works his (almost) biodynamic fruit from Victoria’s Central Highlands through methods scavenged from great French, like Guigal, Perret, Rozay and Vernay, conjuring sensual, slimy beasts like this. Smoothly oozing apricot kernels, dried pears, burlap, marzipan and Bacchus knows what, it’s a seduction best had in the dark with butter chicken, or smoked eel. (16.12.6)


Maximus McLaren Vale Viognier 2008

$??; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points

Maximus is the new brand of sea salt Rowland Short, who purchased Bob and Gwen Mayne’s old vineyard in McLaren Vale, from which this wine does not come. Rowland teaches ship’s captains to be ship’s captains; now he’s into the wine business with a fervour, sourcing different bits and pieces from here and there while he kicks the vineyard into line. This is a welcome change for McLaren Vale viognier: many have been far too greasy, alcoholic and fat. At modest alcohol, good acidity, and with some of its grainy, mealy tannins intact – winemakers often fine these out, which is dumb – the wine is a step above your average pinot gris in style, and that dusty/chalky finish balances perfectly the wine’s considerable viscosity, and, if you must, slime. It’s lighter in flavour than many, with more pear than peach. Very cool. Great for cassoulet, goose confit or bouillabaise – south of France dishes. 26 DEC 08

Domain Day Mt. Crawford Viognier 2006

$20; 13.8% alcohol; screw cap; 90 points

Robin Day chops 40% of his vio crop to the ground, to ensure the flavour the vines would have pumped into those little sacrificed soldiers goes instead into the remaining troops. Then he lifts the foliage on the sunny side to let the berries there burnish up. And he gets this heady perfumed wine, slightly musky, with an alluring whiff of watermelon about it. There’s your standard apricot kernel and pith, but those extra aromatics make it special. The texture’s quite thick and viscous, the tannins powdery. Provençale gratin of mussels and spinach, or stuffed, braised squid. (17 AUG 8)

Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2006

$22; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 88 points

Yalumba has enjoyed 26 years of adulatory press for persisting with viognier. Considering this quirky, misunderstood white had been all but abandoned in France when Rob Hill Smith decided it would become his new chardonnay, it’s good to hear he’s finally importing some properly flavoursome clones from Condrieu. It may now be easier to make viognier great than to make great viognier. But this effort’s half decent: neither too peachy nor too thin, with pinot gris-like slime, good stiff acidity, and that typical cantaloupe peel finish. It’s almost memorable at the price. Butter beans with jambon.

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