This article is dedicated to Viognier (pronounced Vee-on-yay), an aromatic white grape (and wine) that originally comes from the Rhone region of France and is now grown throughout the world.
Viognier is fast growing in popularity, especially for the ABC crowd (Anything but Chardonnay). The last ten years has seen a massive increase in Viognier production throughout the world.
The grape came close to extinction as a result of the late 19th century phylloxera outbreak. In 1965, only eight acres of Viognier grape existed in its Northern Rhône homeland appellation of Condrieu. This is amazing, since the grape is believed to have been growing in that region for at least 2000 years, possibly transported to Rhône from Dalmatia by the Romans.
Important Things to Know about Viognier
Distinctive aromas: Viognier is known for its fresh aromas of apricot, peach, orange blossom and spices.
The wine’s golden tone and floral aromas lead you to believe that its taste will be sweet. But the wine is almost always dry, with the exception of late harvest Viogniers.
Oz Clarke describes Viognier as a “swooning wine…wine that just oozed sex and sensuality.”
Growing challenges: Viognier is a very difficult grape to grow. It is prone to mildew, which sometimes produces lovely hints of blue cheese and almonds on the nose.
It produces low, unpredictable yields, which tends to drive up prices.
It needs to be picked when fully ripe. If picked too early, the grape fails to develop the full extent of its aromas and tastes. If picked too late, the grape produces wine that is high in alcohol, oily and non-aromatic. The grape’s tendency to develop high sugar but low acid can result in wines with neutral flavors and high alcohol.
Ageability: Most Viogniers should be drunk within a couple of years. Beyond this period, the wine loses the fresh aromas that it’s known for. The exceptions are some Viogniers from Condrieu and late harvest Viogniers.
Food pairing: Viognier works well with dishes that also work well with Gewürztraminer. Spicy dishes such as curries, Thai dishes, Mexican cuisine and coconut-milk soups work great. Fruit salsa on grilled fish or chicken also work well. Medium to strong and salty cheeses are also a great match.
I would love to hear your thoughts about Viognier. Please share them here.