The Basics of Viognier (vee-own-yay)
The world of white wines is vast, but let’s take a minute to talk about Viognier. Hailing from southern France, this aromatic and full-bodied white is known for its notes of apricot, honey, lime, mango, peach, pear, oak, and tobacco. Though it originated in France, this unique and rewarding varietal has made its way around the world, gaining more and more popularity every year.
Production & Growing Regions of Viognier
Viognier is born out of Southern France, specifically Côtes du Rhône, a region famous for its blends, like Chateauneuf de Pape in the south and extravagant Syrahs in the north.
In the south, Viognier is grown primarily in the region of Condrieu. With steep south-facing slopes and extensive sunlight, the terrain gives the grape a long growing season that allows it to form a fuller body. Meanwhile, the area’s slightly cooler temperatures help give the wine its light acidity. Pre 1970s, Viognier was often made as a sweet wine, though as dry white wines made themselves more popular through the years, producers began making a dry version as well, even aging it in oak. Some winemakers continue to make slightly off-dry versions today.
Outside of Condrieu, Viognier does make an appearance in Côte Rôtie (Roasted Coast), though they use it in an interesting blend. By law, winemakers in Côte Rôtie are allowed to use up to 5% of the grape in their blends, and they do this to enhance the aroma of their Syrah.
It’s worth noting, however, that the Old World of wine isn’t the only region to explore the grape. Even though Viognier grapes are uniquely challenging to grow and grow well, many winemakers are up for the challenge knowing how great the results can be. In fact, winemakers in other climates have taken up the call to produce this elegant and sophisticated grape.
In Australia, Eden Valley winemakers, in particular, have been making superb use of the grape. In the United States, Washington possesses a cooler climate ideally suited to such grapes, as do Virginia and multiple counties in California.
Pairing Viognier isn’t all that different from pairing other white wines, though it is important to consider the wine’s unique aromatic qualities when choosing foods to pair.
Dishes like roasted chicken with herbs de Provence, sea bream with grilled pine nuts, or a classic lobster dinner all pair perfectly with the tangy acidity and full, creamy body of Viognier. The key is to select meats and dishes that complement Viognier’s bouquet without overwhelming it. Keep turkey, steamed oysters, ramen, and spring and summer roasted vegetables in mind here.
But don’t forget about cheese! Creamy cheeses like brie, gruyere, or even aged gorgonzola are more than happy to accompany such a fine partner at your next party.
For optimal flavor and enjoyment, Viognier should be chilled to a cool 50° F and served in a Chardonnay glass. Like the vast majority of white wines, Viognier is best enjoyed young, so go ahead and buy a bottle to share with guests at the next BYOW party you attend!