A feisty white from a wine wizard

2010 Terre Rouge, Fiddletown Viognier, California (£18, Domaine Direct, 020-7837 1142).

Terre Rouge is located on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley. This is a holistic set-up, farming sustainably and deriving most of its electrical power from solar panels located on the roof of the main winery building.

Winemaker Bill Easton is a wizard with Rhône varietals. His laid-back, natural approach suits the wild characters in this family of grapes, but after tasting two of his meaty, spicy red blends, I didn’t expect this sultry white to blow them out of the water.

I am particularly sceptical about the viognier grape – only a handful of estates in the world (outside of its spiritual home in Condrieu, in the northern Rhône) make balanced, alluring examples.

The Fiddletown viognier vines are planted in loamy, decomposed granite soils and this brings incredible aromatic beauty to this wine. Viognier can often err on the lardy side of the track and while this wine is lush, layered, peachy and silky, it is also tangy, feisty and bright on the finish.

It is fully mature, too, but shows no signs of its age. I very rarely drink a glass of a wine that is on my tasting bench and I never drink the whole bottle. Oops.

• Matthew Jukes is a winner of the International Wine & Spirit Competition’s Communicator of the Year (www.matthewjukes.com).

Merryn

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