A RISING star on wine lists in trendy bars and restaurants, viognier is spreading its vines from the grape's spiritual home in Condrieu, northern Rhone, to become the darling of vignerons in the New World.

Hailed as the Rhone's finest white wine, this modish grape is produced in tiny amounts and commands designer price tags.

But thanks to its beguiling, heady aromas and apricot flavours, a new generation of winemakers are emulating this rich white and banking on its seductive appeal.

South of the River Rhone, the cool hillsides of Montagne Noire in the sunny Languedoc produce effortlessly drinkable examples such as Marquis de Pennautier Viognier, Vin de Pays D'Oc 2009 (£7.99, Majestic). Perfumed with textbook scents of ripe peach and apricot balanced by refreshing acidity, it's terrific with a warm leaf salad and crabcakes.

Wine lovers who judge a bottle by the label will be delighted with an angel's share of Les Anges de Malassan, Viognier 2009 ( pictured, £9.49, http://www.laithwaites.

co.uk) from the medieval city of Carcassonne, in the heart of the Languedoc.

Really lovely, it's a luscious mouthful of fresh passion fruit with hints of elderflower and a honeyed finish.

It's delicious on its own, or with goats cheese salad and a slice of quiche lorraine.