2007 Australian Viognier: Run, don’t walk

Viognier grapesI had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Louisa Rose, head winemaker of Yalumba in March 2008 (quite an honor, considering the harvest was coming in at that very moment). Louisa is arguably one of the top, if not the top, Viognier winemakers in the world today. In the world of Yalumba, with multiple properties and multiple labels covering the $7 to $200 gamut, they find winemakers with particular varietal specialties and put them in charge of the program in a vertical fashion. In other words, the Louisa Rose touch is felt from the Oxford Landing Viognier ($), to the Y Series Viognier ($$), to the Eden Valley Viognier ($$$), to the legendary ‘The Virgilius’ by Yalumba ($$$$). It’s a great idea on Yalumba’s part to do this.

Anyway, back to why 2007 is something to seek out. The first Viognier was brought to Australia in 1968. You may remember that in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the Australian government was actually paying vineyard owners to pull out their vines (especially those old, under producing vines like Grenache planted in the 1800’s. Ouch). So this clone of Viognier brought in 1968 was picked for YIELD ONLY. Viognier to begin with is a vine that can easily overproduce and overgrow … it has a tendency to put three clusters out on each shoot, which is unbelievable. Here is the kicker: this low quality 1968 clone of Viognier was the only clone of Viognier in all of Australia until now!

In 1999 Yalumba was picked (because they run the highest quality nursery in Australia) to go out and find some new Viognier genetic material for Australia. They visited Yves Cullierion in the Northern Rhone, Tablas Creek in California, and other top producers around the world. They visited during harvest, so they could inspect each vine and decide from which to cut. The selection was rigorus, but then the real work began.

Upon bringing the clones back to Australia, they were held by law in quarantine for TWO YEARS (Australia doesn’t mess around with new genetic material coming to the island … the wrong choice or a louse passenger could potentially wipe out the industry). After two years (2001), Yalumba was able to get their hands on the vines and start propogation and testing. Four years after that the vines were producing, and two years after that they are now in the bottle. And that bottle is the 2007 vintage.

Last week at the office we popped a 2006 Yalumba Y Series Viognier. It was beautiful, with all the peachy apricoty goodness we’ve come to know and love. Then we popped a 2007 (which is shipping now). It was a dramatic moment. There isn’t much that will make the World Class Wines sales staff shut up, but this nectar did. The layers of detail, the brightness, the complexity, and the balance were unreal.

This is a defining moment for a country and a grape that are far too often overlooked. Seek this wine out, and when the 2007 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier hits the street grab every bottle you can.

Click here for a pfd file profile on Louisa Rose.

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