Relatively new in South Africa, and almost wiped out worldwide in the 1960s, the Viognier varietal of wine first appeared on our shores with the Fairview 1998, but has only really been gaining acceptance in South Africa over the past few years.
Rich in perfume, with a buttery mouthfeel and brimming with flavours of apricots, and floral notes it’s a wine that can instantly divide the opinions of a party. To be fair to the varietal there is a lot of bad Viognier around, wines where the excesses of the grape are allowed to flow, and drinkers are overpowered with alcohol and perfumes so cloying they are probably more suited to a 90-year-old theatre doyenne.
That said there are winemakers in this country who are capable of wrestling their Viogniers to subtlety and who come out the other side with a unique bottle of wine that is almost more satisfying to red wine drinkers than it is to those who tend to white.
Here are our favourite South African Viogniers:
Once a part of Groot Constantia, Eagle’s Nest now boasts some of the steepest vineyards in South Africa. With terroir that the estate itself claims is “more suited to red wines” they have nonetheless managed to deliver a Viognier of superior quality.
Balanced aromas of jasmine, vanilla, and nutmeg lead into a wine that’s layered with flavour. Built on a bed of peaches the wine also offers noticeable oak and a fresh hint of orange peel, all with a creamy mouthfeel and long, lingering aftertaste. Light acid throughout balances the entire experience. Superb.
Located on the slopes of the Simonsberg mountains, Noble hill is well known for their delightful Spanish/Mexican inspired restaurant “Cosecha”. Their wines make ideal accompaniments to the food, which is made from fresh ingredients and during summer is ideally paired with their Viognier.
A buttery wine, with an almost velvety mouthfeel the Noblehill Viognier is a quiet powerhouse of the varietal. The first taste of honeysuckle and lime gently infused with a light peach flavour leads into a wine rich with stonefruit and hinting at cloves, ginger and straw.
Located high up in the scenic Hemel-en-Aarde valley Creation’s food and wine pairings are considered legendary in the area. The weather patterns in which warm summer days rarely exceed 30 degrees is perfect for grapes like Viognier and this comes through with every bottle.
An unoaked wine, balanced acidity and a pleasing minerality bring depth to this wine, which delivers on light peach flavours with hints of pear, nutmeg and orange blossoms.
The stated aim of the winemakers at “The Foundry” is to create wines the winemakers will enjoy drinking. Currently “vinified, bottled and matured at Meerlust Estate in Stellenbosch” Foundry’s wines often show strong characteristics of winemaker Chris Williams’s time spent studying under Michel Rolland in Pomerol.
The Viognier is a wine that somehow has it all. Full-bodied, but without being heavy, it offers rich flavours of stone fruit and citrus balanced by an underlying acidity and minerality that develops on the palate.
Flagstone Word of Mouth
Having won numerous prizes in the past, this is a wine that nonetheless may have flown under the radar for some years due to the fact that Flagstone is often dismissed as a macro wine producer by those seeking boutique experiences.
Pale yellow in colour this wine offers a lovely buttery mouthfeel. The wine is rich with flavours of pears, peaches and just a hint of pepper and ginger. Beautifully perfumed with floral notes and a suggestion of lime, a fairly prominent note of acidity holds the package together.
Ken Forrester Woolworths Reserve Collection Viognier
At just R70 a bottle, this is a wine that would be easy to overlook but the serious wine drinker, but rest assured it punches well above its price bracket.
Produced exclusively for Woolworths this is a surprisingly light Viognier with strong flavours of peaches and just a hint of lavender on the nose. You certainly won’t be embarrassed if you bring this to a dinner party.