Betty's Wine Musings

Do You Know the Way to Viognier?


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.

As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

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  1. Thoughts about Viognier? I’m not allowed to have any because it is Julianne’s favorite white in the whole big, wide world. As she puts it, “Your job is to find me good bottles, and drink what’s left after I’m done. No more, no less.” (OK, she’s never really put it that way. But I KNOW what she’s thinking.)

    Seriously, it’s one of my favorites too. But not easy to find really nice versions because it’s just so hard to grow, harvest and vinify (as you quite rightly note, Betty). I think of it kind of like the white grape version of pinot noir. Difficult to do, but oh so good, when it all goes right.

    For what it’s worth, my current favorites after lots of looking around are Melville from Santa Barbara and one from Austalia (of all places! not known for great viognier) by Tarlato & Chapoutier. (The whole name is longer, i.e. some specific vineyard designation, but I’m not at home and don’t remember the particulars.) Also always good, but quite pricy are Alban Vineyards and almost anything from Condrieu itself. (Be prepared to pay $75+. I’ve done it once. Good, but THAT good?)

    1. Good to know that Viognier is Julianne’s favorite. Your Pinot analogy is brilliant. Really tough little bugger to deal with, but well worth it when everything works. I’ve had a bunch of not very good Viogniers. It’s such a treat to find a good one. I’m going to check out all of your recommendations. And boy would I love to try one from Condrieu 🙂

  2. I must, must, must try some Viognier again soon! I had it once at a tasting I went to a few years back, and sort of ruled it out of the “wines I like” category because it can be such a high-octane tropical fruit bomb, but I keep hearing it referred to as the wine for Romance, so maybe I’ll give it another shot soon. ; )

  3. I will confess that I spend as much time with my nose in the glass as I do actually drinking Viognier; I find the aroma of this wine almost more intoxicating than the wine itself. That said, I enjoy a Viognier over a Pinot Grigio any day of the week. It is the perfect wine for a sunny summer day, in my humble opinion.

    I hope this varietal will be a regular at your wine tasting parties, Betty. More people need to fall in love with this seductive, and under-appreciated grape!

    1. Isn’t that interesting that the nose on Viognier is better for you than the actual taste? I just bought a Viognier in Healdsburg that I think is fantastic. I will do my best to share it with you. The Viogniers WineShop At Home has made have been really good. We produce one each year. I’m eagerly awaiting the new release.

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