Australian Shiraz Viognier comes from an unlikely partnership – that of a white-wine and red-wine grape – but it is a triumphant combination nonetheless! The practice of blending shiraz with viognier began in France, as the two grapes grow alongside each other in the Côte-Rôtie region of the Northern Rhône Valley. Rhône winemakers often ferment the grapes together and under French law, can blend up to 20 percent viognier into their red wines. The viognier imparts floral and apricot notes to the bouquet, bringing an aromatic boost and enlivening the wine’s colour. This practice has become popular in other countries as well, specifically California and Australia. In fact, Australia has long been renowned as a great producer of shiraz wines and some of their most prized are blended with viognier to produce a full-bodied wine, bursting with floral and fruit aromatics.
In viticulture, the quality potential of the viognier juice is heavily dependent on winemaking practices and climate; with the grape requiring a long, warm growing season to fully ripen. The grapes are also typically harvested early in the morning to produce the clearest juice possible. To add to its complexity, this grape is also naturally a low-yielding variety. As legend has it, Viognier draws its name from the Roman pronunciation of the term Gehennae, meaning the “Road of the Valley of Hell”. It is speculated that this is an allusion to the difficulty of growing the grape. In fact, in 1965 the grape was almost extinct when there were only eight acres in Northern Rhône producing just 1,900 litres of wine. The popularity of the varietal has since risen and as a result, the number of plantings has increased; Rhône now has over 740 acres planted.
In modern day Australia, Yalumba is the country’s largest producer of the viognier grape, making both a white wine varietal and making extensive use of the grape in its shiraz blends. Yalumba grows the grape in the loam and clay soil of the Eden Valley. South Australia is responsible for some of the most spectacular shiraz blends produced in Australia. The Barossa Valley is the region that is most well-known, but the list continues with Coonawarra, McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek to name a few.
Craft Winemakers will finally have the opportunity to make their own Shiraz Viognier wine through the RJS Craft Winemaking 2018 Restricted Quantities program. However as this is a limited release, we recommend pre-ordering through your local RJS Craft Winemaking retailer to ensure you can secure yourself a kit! Your RQ2018 “Triumph” Australia Shiraz Viognier kit will make a wine that is stylish yet refined. It is lush with a tapestry of smooth tannins and succulent dried fruits, vanilla and black pepper. Pair this wine with bison burgers, lamb kebabs, meat pie, or sharp cheddar cheese.