A Wine Lover's Weekly Guide To $10 Wines - A Viognier (White) From Chile

Very recently we reviewed a Chilean red wine made from a Bordeaux blend. Here we review a Chilean Viognier white wine. For a relatively small country, Chile has many wine regions that are developing their own personality. The wine reviewed below comes from the Colchagua Valley situated about 80 miles (some 130 kilometers) southwest of the capital Santiago. This lovely valley with its Mediterranean climate calls itself the next Napa. In 2005 Wine Enthusiast awarded it the Best Wine Region in the world for producing world-class red wines. However, this is a white wine.

The Viognier grape has quite an unusual history. About forty years ago it was limited to only about 35 acres (14 hectares) in the Rhone Valley of southeastern France. These few acres included the grapes that were transformed into Condrieu, considered the best white in the Rhone Valley. Now Viognier has become an up and coming white variety found in many countries including the United States, especially California, and in Australia. If you are tired of Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs (or even if you aren't) you may want to try a Viognier such as this one. And next time you are in the mood for a Chilean red look for Colchagua Valley on the label. We will do so ourselves but won't be surprised if we can't find any in the $10 and less category.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price. Wine Reviewed Cono Sur Viognier 2008 13.7% alcohol about $8

Let's start with the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Pale gold color; tropical fruit aromas with melon, peach and orange blossom notes; dry, medium bodied, with great acidity and flavors of grapefruit, peach, green apple and pineapple; good length on the finish. Serving Suggestion: Serve with stir-fry or wok-sautéed white meats, vegetables and creamy poultry dishes. And now for my review.

I started by sipping this wine alone. I got the characteristic honeysuckle. It was long and slightly sweet and had pleasant acidity. The first meal included a
purchased barbecued chicken leg with the paprika-dusted skin on. The sides were a slightly sweet noodle pudding and a white bean and grilled red pepper combo. With the chicken the flavor went from honeysuckle to honey. This Viognier was persistent with a note of lemon peel. I tasted lemon
and orange when pairing it with the noodle pudding. But the bean and red pepper combo stole some of the wine's fruit. Talking about fruit, I finished the glass with some orange fruit juice candy. At first I thought the pairing wasn't very good, but I changed my mind. The wine displayed bright acidity and was almost feathery.

The second meal involved a middle-eastern dish called Kube (or Kibbe), ground beef in crushed wheat jacket slow cooked in a peppery tomato sauce. Once again I tasted honeysuckle (the dominant flavor of most Viogniers), citrus, and honey notes. I liked its sweetness. With seconds the acidity became softer.

The final meal was an omelet with sides of grilled eggplant and a grilled artichoke dip. When facing the omelet the Viognier was slightly sweet with lingering acidity. I can't say that the wine and omelet really meshed, but an omelet isn't much to mesh with. The artichoke dip intensified the acidity and the eggplant intensified the fruit.

Now for the cheeses. With a Brick cheese the wine became weaker. The Havarti was a better match. Even though this cheese was stronger tasting than the Brick, the wine remained fruity - go figure.

Final verdict. If you are in the market for a different white wine at a low, low price this is a good one. Personally, I am not very partial to Viogniers so I
probably won't be buying this one again in the near future. And at $40 or much more, it may be a long time before I review a Condrieu in my French fine wine column.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but frankly prefers drinking fine German or other wine, accompanied by the right foods and the right people. He teaches computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Check out his wine website http://www.theworldwidewine.com with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about
(theory) and tasting (practice) organic and kosher wines.