The Problem with Viognier
I tasted six different Viogniers yesterday accounting for 4 different appellations. They represented three different recent vintages. Not a single one delivered anything that could remotely be considered "crispness" on the palate and in most cases the best description of the texture of these wines was "flat".
In my mind this is unacceptable. In fact, it leads me to the point of not even considering the varietal when I contemplate which white wine to buy or drink. I felt like I was drinking flat Mountain Dew.
I believe the problem might lie in the winemaker’s desire to draw out as much of that "tropical" character that so many people look and hope for in Viognier. It means they try to get their grapes as ripe as possible before picking. This in turn often leads to diminished acidity, higher alcohols, and a palate feel that is more akin to worn satin. "Smooth" is nice, but it doesn’t help when confronted with a cream sauce.
The other distinguishing feature of 4 of the six Viogniers was a clear bitterness and metallic quality in the wines. I don’t know what causes this feature. But I don’t think it’s something that is natural to the variety.
What I’m wondering is this: Perhaps Viognier might be better utilized as a blending grape. I’m not talking about the traditional practice of tossing in single digit amounts of Viognier into otherwise red Rhone varieties. I’m thinking of a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and and riesling. I’m thinking of the idea of using Viognier to deliver a hint of tropical-ness to to a blend of other whites, rather than trying to get as much "Tahiti" out of Viognier delivered all alone.
There are not that many varieties that disappointment nearly across the board as Viognier does. For years Sangiovese from California truly disappointed me but it seems that glitch has been taken care of due to more years of experience. I’m hoping CA vintners find a better approach to Viognier.