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A Tale Of Two Outstanding Viogniers

By Charles Olken

I will admit it. I like Viognier—when it is made right, which is to say when it finds not just the clean, fruity side of its personality but also a fair bit of depth and richness while still maintaining it inner sense of balance and not losing its “pretty” parts either. Such wines are few and far between, and neither here in California nor in its native France does the grape show its best as easily as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are able to do.

Some years ago now, Mrs. Olken and I made a pilgrimage to the Rhône region of France. Part holiday but mostly working both in the northern and southern parts of that district, we went in search of the secrets and came away with at least a better understanding of how the great southern reds based on Grenache and the northern whites built out of Viognier could rise to grandeur.

We were assisted in those visits by Bruce Neyers, he of his own winery and more significantly in his role as Kermit Lynch’s import manager and by Jeff Cohn whose contacts in the northern Rhône included some of the world’s best makers of Condrieu, that home for Viognier. Tasting with folks like Gangloff, Cuilleron, Gaillard and Villard revealed some of their unique approaches.

And today, tasting through Viogniers for our upcoming September Issue, I fell to reminiscing about those visits because I tasted a Viognier from DuMOL that put me back into the caves at Francois Villard where he talked about richness, balance, beauty and barrels. M. Villard is not afraid to push his grapes and his wines to produce depth of character, and neither are the folks at DuMOL. We will retaste the DuMOL again before settling on a final rating, but, even now, it is clear that this wine stands clear among its peers and will come highly recommended. And in gaining its deep character and potential to improve, it reminds of nothing so much of the great wine we tasted in Condrieu.


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by TomHill
Posted on:8/14/2014 8:53:06 AM


Huh??? I only count one Viognier here...the DuMol. Did you forget one??

   I've always been particularly of EhrenJordan's Failla Viognier. He does a better job w/ JohnAlban's Viognier grapes than John himself does.

JeffCohn also has a new Viognier, made in cooperation w/ YvesGangloff, that I understand is very good. I haven't received my btls yet to try, though.



No Subject
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:8/14/2014 9:14:45 AM


The second bottling was supposed to be the Villard. When we visited the gang of four, as mentioned above, I was impressed in various ways by each of them, but it was at the Francois Villard winery that my mind was turned around on the subject,

M. Villard not only uses new oak barrels for fermentation and aging but he also looks for about 10% botrytis in his grapes for added richness and complexity.

He achieves both without having the wine lose its way. The DuMOL is not an exact replica and does not need as much "pushing" to achieve its character, but like the Villard, it extends the envelope in a balanced manner and that is what winemaking is all about in my view.

by TomHill
Posted on:8/14/2014 11:01:28 AM

Thanks for clarifying that, Charlie. I was thinking there was a 2'nd Calif Viognier you'd reviewed that you liked, but forgot to include.

   I like the Villard Condrieus very much. Pricey (as is most Condrieu) but quintessential Condrieu.



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