Although little known in South Africa, Viognier is a cultivar which has become increasingly popular over recent years. Creation was the first farm on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge to plant this grape, which is believed to be an ancient variety first brought to Central and Western Europe from Croatia in Roman times. Genetically it is a cousin of the Italian cultivar Nebbiolo and closely related to the lesser known Piedmont grape Freisa.
Viognier was hit particularly hard by the phylloxera epidemic that decimated Europe’s vineyards in the late 19th Century, and was slow to recover due to the chaos and confusion of two world wars that followed with many vineyards totally abandoned. By 1965 only 30 acres remained in production in its traditional home in the Rhône Valley. It is the only cultivar permitted in the Condrieu Appellation, and up to 20% Viognier is permitted in the red wines of the Côte-Rôtie AOC (the benefit of Viognier is that it provides additional stability for the pigments in the Syrah with which it is blended, adding floral notes). In the rest of the Rhône it is often blended with traditional white Mediterranean varieties such as Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc.
Viognier tends to medium vigour in the vineyard but requires deep soils with good water retention to ensure excellent quality. The berries and bunches are small and round or cylindrical, and usually have a yellow or amber hue when ripe. Ripeness also brings a distinctive aromatic character which is evident in the white peach and floral notes associated with Viognier. The leaves are usually 3-lobed and light in colour, and Viognier is generally considered to be immune to botrytis.
The Creation Viognier ripens and is harvested fairly early, and is unoaked to preserve freshness and minerality.
Flavour Profile and Food Pairing
Stylistically, Viognier is often richer and lower in acidity than, for instance, Sauvignon Blanc, however differences in vinification can produce a range of styles, making it versatile. The Creation Viognier offers peaches and cream on the nose with a distinctive cool-climate freshness to balance the stone fruit character.
The purity of fruit makes this wine especially suited to Asian foods like chicken lahksa or Thai green curry. It serves as a fantastic foil to the fragrant, aromatic spices of traditional curried fish which highlights the freshness and minerality of the cool climate Creation Viognier.
For a terrific collection of recipes for dishes paired with Creation wines, go here.