The Voluptuous Viognier Varietal
Viognier (pronounced VEE-ohn-yay) is well-known to many wine lovers in Virginia. It is believed Dennis Horton of Horton Vineyards was the first to plant the grape in the state. He released his first vintage of Viognier wine in 1993. The varietal was designated as the state grape in 2011 by the Virginia Wine Board, and is on the tasting list at local vineyards.
Its origins go back to France, and in particular the Northern Rhone, where it is the main white grape of the French appellations of Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet. A small percentage is often blended with Syrah to add an aromatic bouquet to the red wine.
In 1965 only eight hectares of Viognier was planted in the Northern Rhone. It wasn’t until the 1990s when the amount of land dedicated to Viognier started to gradually increase in the Rhone and throughout other winemaking regions around the world. Today you can easily find a range of single varietal Viognier wines from France and Italy in Europe; from Virginia and California in the U.S; from Chile and Argentina in So. America; and from Australia and South Africa.
Viognier can produce a full-bodied lush character which includes fragrant notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, gardenia orange blossom, stone fruit flavors like peach and apricot and a spice component. The aromatic quality of the wines hint at sweetness, but the taste is actually dry. Although low-acidity Viogniers do not require oak ageing to provide balance, some restrained use of French oak can enhance the overall flavor. The wines often have between 13 and 14 percent of alcohol by volume.
A glass of Viognier is on its own causes you to pause and think about all of the aromatic and taste nuances. It is also a food friendly wine that pairs with chicken, pork, seafood, spicy Thai cuisine, tangines, roast turkey, dishes with fruit salsas and coconut.