Sometimes you discover the best wines in the most unexpected places. Having ventured deep into the Dorset countryside this week in anticipation for a vineyard tour at Furleigh Estate, one of England’s most successful vineyards, I found myself at The Shave Cross Inn. It had all the rich heritage and charm that a quaint country pub deserves, as well as a compact, but high quality wine list. On it, I was immediately drawn to one of my favourite white wine varietals – Viognier. Considering we were so deep in the countryside (and I mean deep – we must have driven about 30 minutes through winding single-lane roads before we reached Shave Cross) I hadn’t expected many vegan-friendly options to have reached there yet, but lo and behold, here was a wine that was not only vegan, but one of my preferred grapes!
Adobe Riserva Viognier (2016)
Made in Colchagua Valley in Chile, Adobe Viognier is a product of the organic (and biodynamic) Emiliana Vineyards, who strive for sustainability and never use pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilisers. The result is a range of beautifully balanced, high quality wines, which are a pleasure to drink in every scenario, with virtually limitless possibilities for food pairings.
This Viognier is just one of Emiliana’s Adobe wines, named after an ancient natural material used for construction in Chile, which is the main foundation of their winery. Many wine producers keep their wine-making techniques secret, but Emiliana have been very transparent – they’re proud of their organic, biodynamic, and sustainable practises, and rightly so. Because of this, I can very happily, very confidently, say that this vegan wine has been fined with Benonite; a type of clay.
How It Tastes:
In the glass, it’s a beautiful pale golden colour, which promises a lot of flavour – something the heady scent of honeysuckle and jasmine wafting up from the glass backs up. Taking that first sip, you’re overcome with the delicate sweetness of apricot, peach, and even a little tropical papaya, undercut with a burst of fresh citrus. Garden and orchard, entwined in one glass.
Viognier as a rule is a delicate wine, but it isn’t watery – it has real substance. The grape ripens slowly, meaning the wine is has a lot of character, and is also higher in alcohol than you might expect from such a floral wine (this is 14%!).
This will probably be an online order, or from wine merchants like Majestic. Retailing at around £8.00-£9.99, I think it’s fantastic value, and it has earned my title of Wine of the Month for May.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure, Viognier is a very floral, very aromatic grape of French origin, which gives you a glass full of delicious smells, and tastes to go with it. It’s sweet, but in a refined, elegant way – you’ll get more soft fruitiness with it than a tart Sauvignon Blanc, but it isn’t sickly. Offering delicate flavours like apricot, nectarine, flowers, and honey, fans of Pinot Grigio will love it, because it’s the next-level version, and people who dislike Pinot Grigio because it’s too sweet will be pleasantly surprised by the greater level of character and complexity that these wines can offer.
Surprisingly, Viognier is actually commonly blended with Syrah (also known as Shiraz) which is fairly full-bodied black grape. The pairing is quite popular in Chile, which is where Adobe Riserva comes from, and often makes wines that pair beautifully with relatively rich dishes – pork, smoked fish, meaty seafood like crab and lobster, and cream-based sauces, as well as dishes with dried fruit. Interestingly, Australian Shiraz can still be labelled Shiraz, even with up to 15% Viognier in the blend!
I, however, stuck with the 100% Viognier white wine, and paired it with tapas.
Now, unfortunately there weren’t as many vegan options for food at The Shave Cross, so this pairing was born more from necessity than preference. Clearly the Inn’s asparagus and aubergine tapas were popular, because they’d run out, but they would have matched well. As it were, I don’t think many wines would be able to combat the sharpness of fermented sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) but it did highlight the fennel seeds quite nicely.
Vegan food pairings for Viognier:
Whilst we vegans are going to struggle to find good matches for something like a big, heavy Barolo (which basically cannot be drunk without meaty pasta and extra-mature cheese, because that’s exactly what the Italians made it for) Viognier is a relatively easy one to pair up. It’s packed full of florals and sweet fruit, but with quite a rich texture. It seems delicate, but actually has quite a lot of substance to it, making it ideal for a variety of different dishes, and cuisines.
Personally, the next time I enjoy Viognier, it will be with a light curry, or Moroccan tagines– dishes that offer gentle spices like cinnamon, coriander, or ginger, accompanied by apricots, sultanas, and almonds…. my mouth is watering already.
Even more good news for vegans, it pairs nicely with lighter nuts, like cashews and macadamia– so would be the perfect option for nut-based cheese (especially if they had dried apricots in them!) as well as cashew-cream sauce, and fruit-topped tofu cheesecake.
If you’ve never tried Viognier before, do it. Do it now. It’s a versatile, great all-rounder, and particularly good for tentative wine explorers looking to branch out from the regular Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Pinot Grigio.
I’m super excited to try pairing a Viognier with the food suggestions I’ve listed, but if you beat me to it, be sure to tell me!