The origins of this grape are ancient, but it is believed that Viognier originated in Dalmatia (present-day Croatia) and was brought to France by the Romans. Today you can buy Viognier from the Rhône Valley under the name Condrieu, although only 30 000 or cases are produced annually. Today, much more Viognier is grown in California, Australia and South America.
Viognier grapes make for an excellent varietal wine. It is typically heavy and full-bodied like a Chardonnay, but more lush, softer with low-to-medium acidity, and delightfully aromatic. On the nose are notes of peaches, pears, and a variety of tropical notes including pineapple, mango, tangerine and lemon. Tasting characteristics include a prominent floral component and a creamy mouthfeel of pineapple, apricot, peach, mango and so on. Old World Viognier tend to be more floral, whereas New World examples tend to emphasize the fruity character of the wine.
Viognier also makes for excellent blending. In France and Australia it is often co-fermented with Syrah/Shiraz to make a rich, flavourful, heavy red wine with balanced floral notes. Australian Shiraz Viognier is real treat! When it is available as a wine kit, it is a crowd favourite.
For us winemakers, Viognier is great as a very heavy and flavourful wine that red wine drinkers will also appreciate. It tends to drink well young, which is great when you don’t feel like waiting!
Viognier is typically dry, although off-dry and sweeter examples do exist. You can even get Viognier dessert wine! Most Viognier are great without food, but they pair well with brie and other creamy cheeses. It’s one of the few wines that pairs excellently with spicy foods, so consider it the next time you have Thai take-out.
Here are some commercial examples to try:
Cline Cellars Viognier – Sonoma, California. A great modern example with a touch of acidity for that clean, crisp finish.
Chateau Routas Viognier – Var, France. This Viognier has 15% Chardonnay blended in. It’s a little softer and lower alcohol than its New-World counterparts, and has a delightful complexity.
There are a wide variety of Viognier wine kits available to be made as well.
En Primeur Winery Series Italian Viognier. Opens with a dramatic and intense floral bouquet enhanced by aromas of apricots and peach. Lush peach and honeysuckle on the palate balances a crisp acidity.
Cellar Craft Showcase Yakima Valley Viognier. An amazing, full-bodied, aromatic wine with a creamy mouth-feel. Unbelievable aromas and flavours of apricot, mango, pineapple, guava, kiwi, tangerine, orange blossom and spiced pear absolutely dazzle the senses. Full, off-dry, lingering finish.
Selection Californian Viognier. The intense fruitiness of this beguiling wine suggests rich sweetness, but it shows a surprisingly dry and aromatic finish. A delicate yellow colour, tinged with the variety’s typical ‘green-gold’ hue, it bursts out of the glass with apricot, peach and spice aromas. As it matures, it can also display hints of jasmine, honeysuckle, kiwi, mint, orange blossom, and mango.