WINE: 25 JULY 2016

Louisa Rose ... working magic at Yalumba with the exotic viognier

Viognier enjoys vinous cult status virtually worldwide because of a single vineyard, the Rhone Valley’s Chateau Grillet, which occupies the entirety of its own 3.8-hectare appellation, declared in 1936 and generally regarded as France’s smallest, though the variety is more widely planted in the surrounding appellation of Condrieu.

Over the past 20 years, this exotic, highly perfumed white grape variety has gained a solid foothold in Australia, but certainly hasn’t yet made it into the Australian mainstream.

Yalumba has the country’s widest plantings, in the relatively cool climate of the Eden Valley, perched above South Australia’s famous Barossa Valley, and chief winemaker Louisa Rose is doing her damned best to make sure that it does achieve a widespread following.

Viognier’s principal use, both in the Rhone and Australia, is to make a soft, full-flavoured dry white that because of its abundant perfumed character can surprise drinkers through an aroma suggesting something quite sweet.

That same perfumed, seductive character can make the variety something of an acquired taste — one that I admit to still getting my palate completely around.

It’s often suggested as a good pairing for quite spicy Thai cuisine, and Louisa Rose suggests that her latest offering — the Yalumba 2015 Eden Valley Viognier — would go well with a Moroccan tajine and also pork dumplings served with a ginger-and-chilli dipping sauce.

Either my palate is growing accustomed to the variety’s nuances or Rose is further working out how to get the best out of what is a difficult variety, but I really enjoyed tasting this wine — and matching it with some spring rolls loaded with coriander.

I suspect it’s a combination of both.

Viogner’s other role, again both in the Rhone and Australia, is to partner shiraz in a perfumed red blend, but that really is worthy of another day and a separate story.


Above: Louisa Rose ... a great champion of viognier.

Brangayne proprietor David Hoskins among the vines and with faithful companions..


YALUMBA 2015 EDEN VALLEY ROUSSANNE ($24): Roussanne is another white grape variety that calls the Rhone Valley home. It’s also full-flavoured and perfumed but not as conspicuously as viognier. The wine was fermented on full solids and in old oak barrels by wild yeast from the vineyard. Post-fermentation there was a deal of winemaking sophistication employed to give the wine creaminess and texture. Try with fuller, spicy Asian dishes or creamy Italian cuisine. I can imagine it going down a real treat with a bowl of fettuccine carbonara.

YALUMBA 2013 GALWAY MALBEC ($19): This is a new partner for Galway Shiraz, the mainstay of Yalumba’s portfolio, and it has the firmer backbone to give drinkers a real choice in the just under-$20 range. In Australia, malbec is most often associated with South Australia’s Clare Valley, but it’s obviously quite at home in the Barossa Valley as well. It’s quite an intensely flavoured dry red but also quite elegant. Try it with char-grilled lamb.

BRANGAYNE 2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC ($20): I’m a great fan of sauvignon blanc from Orange because it so easily passes the second-glass test and has the texture and palate weight to back the aromatic bouquet, unlike many of the sauvignons from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. I find many of the latter wines simple, aroma-driven caricatures, whereas examples such as this from Orange — and also the Adelaide Hills — have real gravitas. Try with skewered prawns and chilli sauce.

BRANGAYNE 2014 PINOT NOIR ($35): This red comes from Brangayne’s Ynys Witrin vineyard, situated on the Forbes Road, near Orange, and a few degrees warmer than the winery’s home vineyard on Pinnacle Road. The characters gained from maturation in French oak blend quite seamlessly with the fruit’s vibrant cherry and berry flavours, producing a wine that’s quite soft, yet complex and substantial. Like many pinots, I reckon that its natural dining partner is roast duck.