Body: Full with a silky richness
Dry / Sweet: Dry
Age: Drink while young.
Other: An interesting alternative to oaked Chardonnay. Tends to be high in alcohol.
Viognier (vee-oh-NYAY) is a high quality grape that was on the verge of extinction in the 1960s in its Northern Rhône home of Condrieu (kon-dree-uh) in France. Fortunately, this excellent and quite distinctive grape variety was saved and today it is grown in many wine regions across the world.
Because of its full body, silky richness and the fact that it takes well to light oak contact, it has been placed in the Rich style. However, it could equally be included in the Aromatic style due to its characteristic and very pronounced floral perfume.
The wine that Viognier makes is dry with high alcohol and low acidity and is at its best when consumed young. The aroma is complex: rich and powerful with the scent of honeysuckle, orange blossom and primroses. On the palate it is lush with a silky richness and displays stone fruit flavors of apricot and peach, along with spicy and herbal notes. The best wines are world-class and truly stunning.
Viognier has become very popular in recent years as an interesting alternative to oaked Chardonnay because it is full bodied, but with a much more aromatic quality. This in turn has encouraged many producers to plant Viognier to capitalise on this demand.
However, Viognier is a naturally low yielding grape, is very fussy about where it is grown and can be unpredictable. Consequently, making good Viognier is an expensive business. A cheap Viognier may be a very pleasant wine, but don’t expect it to have great complexity, a heady floral perfume and luscious flavors of apricot and peach.
To be at its best Viognier also requires old vines, so over time quality will improve. Having said all of the above, there are many excellent varietal examples made outside of Viognier’s Northern Rhône home. It also plays an important blending role in many white wines of the Southern Rhône and a small proportion is often added to the famous Syrah red wines of the Northern Rhône.
If you have not yet tried Viognier you should seek out a good varietal example: you are in for a treat!
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