Grapes 27 and 28: Viognier and Princess

Blends Rock
For a blog that explores huge numbers of different grapes, it seems almost sacrilegious to mention a dirty secret. This wino really likes blends. Like a lot. Sometimes when drinking one wine, the thought of another wine jumps up and of course you’re thinking how amazing they’d be together. Usually this happens when one wine’s ok but could do a little better for itself by dating around a bit. Maybe that’s how wine makers think up blends, maybe not.

Social Butterfly
Viognier is one of those “date around” wines, and it’s really quite prolific, the social butterfly of grapes. Lots of wines mix it up with others of their clan: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Muscat show up quite a bit together, and Cab and Merlot do their dance every year at the Hong Kong Wine Auction. There are probably others that cross the Mason-Dixon line between white and red, but Viognier definitely shows up a lot at the Red parties. It’s Shiraz that usually invites Viognier, especially in Australia’s Barossa Valley.

But Viognier is more than a one-grape dallier. Take this wine from California that Clayhouse makes “according to a proprietary blend.” Presumably they also make software for Microsfot. The wine is 6 grapes with no majority shareholder. Viognier gets top billing at 22%, but Chardonnay and Roussanne and the three Blanc sisters (Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Chenin Blanc) are all there in at least 5% doses. Doesn’t seem fair to label this post “6 grapes for the Price of 1″ so it’s limited to the main attraction of Viognier and the opening act of Princess.

Unrecognized Princess
Princess, like any good opening act, isn’t as famous or as appreciated as the star people actually pay to see. Princess, in fact, isn’t even on the label. The US doesn’t even recognize it as a grape that CAN be listed on the bottle, despite its parentage of Muscat (perhaps the first wine grape) and Thompson (those awesome big crunchy grapes that kids steal int the grocery store). Clayhouse, maker of this wine, are petitioning the government to allow Princess to appear on the label, and they’ll likely win. “US Government Rejects Princess” is not a headline bureaucrats like to see.

Taste
So, taste. Not sure who contributed what to this white wine potluck, but what I tasted involved peaches, lots of smoothness (like a skipping stone on a clear lake), a little Werther’s and medium grade oil on the mouth. Not light, not heavy crude – medium grade, straight into the motor.

Sounds like a really gross mix re-reading this description, so to clarify, this blend works in the way that long summer days work when you’re on summer break in high school. New motor oil in your car, fresh peaches from the roadside stand on your way to the lake and skipping stones in the afternoon until it’s dark, and you and your social butterfly head home. Wine for warm weather, definitely.

Detail Up!
Clayhouse, Adobe White Blend 2008, Paso Robles, CA (h/t to the linked guys for the image)

Random Googles:
* Princess probably won’t be a grape you’ll find alone on a bottle, even if the government allows it. She disappoints wine makers.
* Viognier almost went extinct back in the day (the hippie day of the 1960s) but stubborn Condrieu kept planting it on the banks of the Rhone River in France. Now it’s the only grape allowed in Condrieu wines and bottles start at $50. Viognier, like many a sketchy Frenchmen, now thrives abroad.
* “V-OWN-yay” – pronunciation for your favorite sketchy Frenchman

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