Viognier and Vermentino are synonymous with summer. While both of these grapes are popular in Europe, they remain mostly unknown in the US. (But, they are increasingly popping up on our wine lists). The two varietals can make for simple poolside drinking, but they both can also be complex, serious wines. Viognier and Vermentino are versatile in that they can be served as an aperitif, or with a summer meal. I especially like them with grilled fish, and they’re terrific with shellfish. A light summer pasta (veggies & pesto, or cherry tomatoes & arugula) also work well.
Viognier hails from the Rhone Valley in France. It is often used in blending, but in the appellation of Condrieu, it is 100% varietal. Condrieu is ground zero for lovers of Viognier. I am a great fan of Viognier’s perfume-like aromas (think summer honeysuckle or fragrant roses), but I also am taken with its exotic fruit profile (mango, or even sweet tangerine). I highly recommend any of Rhone winemaker Yves Cuilleron’s Viogniers. One of the best Viognier I’ve had outside of France is Spain’s Vall Loch from the Priorat region. Greece is also knocking it out of the park--- producer Gerovassiliou makes a killer Viognier. For the US, I’ve not tasted anything that can beat Santa Barbara’s rendition by boutique Jaffurs Winery. If you can find any of these Viogniers, buy every bottle they have.
Vermentino (known as Rolle in the South of France) is another rock-star summer sipping wine from the Italian Mediterranean. Like Viognier, it can be highly aromatic. It is similar to Sauvignon Blanc in weight and shares many of the same citrus-like qualities. Vermentino, however, often serves up some intriguing minerality as an added bonus. The best Vermentinos come from the island of Sardenia (Argiolas is a great producer). Tablas Creek in Paso Robles is one of the few US producers that grows Vermentino.
Enjoy the last weeks of summer, and drink plenty of “Vitamin V.”