Laurent Miquel has long been the leading Viognier producer in the south of France, making wines that are as good as most Condrieu but at less than half the price. This vintage is his best yet in my view, a rich, spicy, sumptuous, yet well balanced white, with sweet vanilla oak, just the right amount of acidity to temper the concentration of the wine and hedonistic flavours of apricot, fresh cream and fresh ginger. Available on line initially by the half case, so hurry.
White Varietal: Viognier
2011 Canyon Park, The Guardians MRV, Danube Plain( £14.95, 13%, The Wine Society )
With a name like Canyon Park, let alone a price tag close to £15, the last place you’d expect this blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier to come from is Bulgaria, but the country that gave us impossibly cheap Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1980s is emerging from the Eastern European doldrums at last. This is smoky, savoury and perfumed, with aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle, ripe, pear and apricot flavours and subtle oak integration. A sign of very good things to come?
Chapoutier’s class of 2013by Matt Walls
2010 Catapult Shiraz, McLaren Vale( £13.99 down to £10.50, 14.5%, Marks & Spencer )
Wirra Wirra makes some of my favourite South Australian reds, wines that are ripe and full of fruit, but not ponderous or over-oaked. This is an Aussie take on a Côte Rôtie with 2% Viognier adding extra fragrance to the Shiraz. Dense and sweet, with plush tannins, good texture, well-judged oak and a savoury note. Ripe and well balanced with sweet bramble and blackberry fruit.
2009 The Liberator (This Bird Has Flown), Swartland( £11.95, 14.5%, The Wine Society )
This Cape blend of Chenin, Viognier, Chardonnay and Clairetter Blanche won’t be to everyone’s taste – it’s got some age to it and a developed, Sherry-like not – but I salute its ambiiton and left field flavours. Rich and honeyed, with some vanilla and nutmeg spice, fresh acidity and bags of concentration. Appealingly funky.
2011 The Curator, The Swartland( £6.95, 13.5%, The Wine Society )
By the hot house standards of the Swartland, this is a light and comparatively elegant red blend of mostly Shiraz with some Mourvèdre, Cinsaut and Viognier. It’s a scented, unoaked style with some pepper spice, raspberry and red cherry fruit and refreshing acidity.
2011 Rhône: the George Harrison vintageby Matt Walls
2009 Yalumba Shiraz/Viognier, Eden Valley, South Australia( £11.99, 14%, Harrods, Slurp, Winedirect )
The Viognier is more obvious in this wine than it is in most Côte Rôties, but that’s part of the style. It’s ripe, soft and slightly apricotty, with supple red fruits, touches of oak. liquorice and blackberry and medium weight tannins.
2009 Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier, Eden Valley, South Australia( £26.99, 14.5%, Harrods, Selfridges, Slurp )
A candidate for the title of Australia’s best Viognier (and that’s not meant to sound like faint praise), this is true to its varietal, but in a subtler way than many New World examples. White flowers, some cream, a hint of spice, nuanced oak and enough acidity to keep the wine tingling nicely on the palate.
2011 d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab Marsanne/Viognier, McLaren Vale, South Australia( £9.99, 13%, Sainsbury's )
The wonderfully theatrical Chester Osborn is better known for his reds than his whites, but he has a suprisingly subtle touch with the latter, as this very lightly oaked blend of Viognier with 32% Marsanne demonstrates. It’s a spicy, pithy, understated white, with good crunch and zest, a hint of apricot and a mealy, balanced finish.
2011 Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block, Western Cape( £19.99 down to £14.99, 14.5%, Waitrose )
Marc Kent’s cult red blend is always in demand, so you might need to hurry to buy this. It’s as good as ever: plush, sumptuous and aromatic, with sweet, ripe, tarry flavours of Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsaut and Viognier, good acidity and lots of smoky, palate-warming fruit.
2009 Laurent Miquel Vérité Viognier, Pays d'Oc, Languedoc( £14.99 down to £11.24, 13.5%, Waitrose )
Laurent Miquel makes some of the best Viogniers, not just in France but in the world. This judiciously-oaked wine wouldn’t look out of place in Condrieu, such is its fidelity to this supremely aromatic grape. Classy vanilla oak, fresh acidity and flavours of cream and stone fruits are beautifully intertwined here.