Viognier 'Granit' Jean-Francois Jacouton, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, France 2016

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Vognier Jacouton.jpg

Viognier 'Granit' Jean-Francois Jacouton, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, France 2016

21.95

Perhaps your one of those people for who good grammar is very important and you wish less people would make basic errors. If that sentence made your blood boil, then this might not be the wine for you. It’s a wine that breaks a few rules so it’s really quite unique.

We love Condrieu, the ultimate expression of the Viognier grape from the Northern Rhone, but we don't love the prices it can command, so we spend an obsessive amount of our time looking for alternatives that we can afford. It may well be the same impulse that stirs philatelists to spend hours sifting through piles of stamps in the hope of finding a Two Penny Blue or an Inverted Jenny and, as with stamps, it’s sometimes the anomalies that make them more precious to collectors..

Well, here’s the Penny Black that we have been searching for, a Viognier from Jean-Francois Jacouton that is a rarity all of its own. It’s a beautiful wine, but it comes from the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks, so its vine roots are actually in the Ardèche not the Rhone, but that should only be of concern to cartologists, because this could easily slide into an identity parade of £30.00-£40.00 Condrieus and no one would pick it out as a less expensive imposter (well, apart from the fact that it doesn’t say Condrieu anywhere on the label).

It may only be labelled as a humble IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée), but the vineyards are as steep as any in Condrieu, allowing the vines to catch the reflected sunlight from the Rhone river below, the soil is similarly composed of granite (hence the name), which brings a mineral coolness to the wine, the clones are the same as in Condrieu and it sits on the same side of the river as Condrieu, just a few miles downstream opposite Crozes-Hermitage. I fear I may have used the word ‘Condrieu’ too often.

The Viognier grape is a bit of a maverick. It’s low in acidity, which is unusual for a white grape, so harvesting time is critical. It can literally come down to a matter of hours. Pick too early and the aromas won’t have developed, pick too late and the wine will taste blousy. Its sugars develop unevenly too, spiking suddenly around harvest time, so it must be picked before they risk converting into a high alcohol content in the wine (Jacouton’s is a refreshing 12.5%). Also, when Viognier is vinified as Condrieu, it is one of the few ‘luxury’ white wines that should be drunk young, typically within 3 or 4 years of vintage.

Jean-Francois has clearly picked his grapes with military precision, because the aromas are beautifully delicate, yet there’s no lack of ripeness or hollowness. It’s so fine in perfume, suggesting honeysuckle and jasmine in its top notes, as well as apricot and honeydew melon in its lower registers and a dash of whipped butter that adds a luxurious note, but the key to a great Viognier is a cut of lime both on the nose and on the palate. Without that green streak of acidity, it becomes frumpy, but this has that all-important zing, as well as a cool backing of bedrock minerality from the granite soil. Drink it in the sunshine with hard cheeses like Comté or Gouda or Emmental, but don’t drink it ice cold or you will lose the subtle aromas. 12.5% alc. Drink now-2019.

Press review:

Jancis Robinson: "Banana ice-cream and pineapple with a sweet musky character - overdelivers on the nose. Lovely buttery notes on the palate, buffed and polished to a perfectly round mouthfeel. Lighter than many Rhône Viogniers, but no dilution of flavour. Expertly done - very good." 17 points


Customer comment:

“The Viognier is delicious.” - Mr J.M.

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Jean-Francois Jacouton - background
Jean-Francois set up his domaine in 2010 and works with 4 hectares of Viognier and Syrah vines, producing a modest 2,500 cases of wine each year. His steep, terraced vineyards are labour intensive, necessitating that everything be done by hand, as tractors and machine harvesters can’t get anywhere near. Standing in his vineyards, you could easily think you were in Hermitage or Cote Rotie, apart from the fact that the stone-walled terraces are a little bit more ramshackle, because he can’t afford structural engineers to make them look pretty for the tourists, but they still perform the same function (water retention, access and erosion prevention) and he maintains them as best he can. It’s a labour of love that continues into the winery, where Jean-Francois cares for his small production as fastidiously as a shepherd with a small flock. His aim is to make wines that are “fine and precise” and that really shines through in this glassy, vivid, pellucid Viognier.

 
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