White Wine Viognier

White wine is a variety of wine which color oscillates in straw yellow, greenish-yellow, or golden yellow hues. It is produced by the alcoholic fermentation of the non-colored pulp of grapes that may have white or black skin to produce a transparent yellow color wine.

There are original strains from the old world that, thanks to the processes of colonization and trade, have spread to other territories. These events have allowed a more varied and widespread wine growing throughout the world.

We will talk about Viognier wine, a white wine whose strain is native to the Rhone, France. Still, the cultivation of its vine and the production of this kind of wine have expanded to other territories, becoming very known for its body and smooth character, despite not being indigenous to some regions.

Origins and History of Viognier

Origin and Legends Behind It

There is not much information about the origin of the Viognier. According to certain investigations, this strain comes from the Dalmatia region (now Croatia), and Romans brought it to the Rhone.

According to a series of legends, this vine was with syrah on a ship that sailed up the Rhone. It was captured by a group of outlaws known as “culs de piaux” in the regions near what is now Condrieu.

However, the origin of the name Viognier is still mysterious. It is said that the name comes from the Roman expression “via gehenna”. This means “Highway of the gehenna of hell”. This name may refer to the difficulty of growing this kind of grape.

History and Cultivation of the Grape

Throughout history, Viognier was a very common wine. However, in 1965, the grape was so close to being extinct due to events such as the 19th-century phylloxera and the First World War. For that year, there were only about 8 acres in the north of the Rhone that produced this wine (The Rhone area at that time was 30 acres). Its popularity and price increased due to this condition, and consequently, the number of plantations increased. Currently, the Rhone has 740 acres of cultivation of this grape.

This variety of wine is made in New World countries, such as Argentina and Chile, Brazil. And also in the state of California from the ’90s. This is thanks to its cold and temperate climates and the quality of its lands similar to those of the Rhone. In Argentina, it is very well cultivated in Mendoza and San Juan’s provinces, where it is a non-traditional variety of the country but is widely consumed by its people.

This vine is still planted in Europe and in Spain, the Viognier grape has been planted in small quantities. This grape can be found in Priorat, Jumilla, Castilla la Mancha, Castilla León. In France, it is currently little cultivated, even in the place of origin (Condrieu). However, it has been cultivated with great success in Languedoc-Roussillon (south of France).

viognier grapes
Viognier grapes ripening on the vine in Amador county, California. – By Anachronist – Own work, Public Domain, Wikimedia

Description of the Viognier

It presents similarities to Chardonnay in terms of the body and smooth character of the wine. However, Viognier has a more natural aroma, including the notes of peach, pear, mango, apricot, violet, and some minerals.

Many aromas of this wine depend on the terroir, climatic conditions, and vines’ age. Although some of these wines, such as those from old vines and late harvest, are suitable for aging, most Viogniers are wines for the young.

Those Viognier wines that remain aged for more than three years lose much of their floral aroma. Its aging produces a fresh but weak wine. Its color and aroma are reminiscent of sweet wines; however, Viognier is a predominantly dry wine. These characteristics make Viognier an ideal summer wine.

Tasting Notes

It has a soft, bright, and transparent yellow color. Its olfactory phase shows a complex combined with tropical fruits (peach, pear, mango, pineapple) and aromatic herbs.

As for the taste, it is fresh and lively. Its powerful entry is in nice contrast with pleasant aromas of ripe fruit, with a long, clean, and fresh finish. Also, the Viognier has spicy notes with a flitch of nuts. It has a good body, structure, and creaminess. Another highlight of the Viognier is its personality and low acidity.

Facts About Its Viticulture

The production of this wine requires a lot of skill on the part of the producer since the aromatic notes can disappear if too much oxygen is exposed during fermentation in the barrel.

The quality of this wine is highly dependent on the conditions of viticulture, such as the climate. For the grape to ripen fully, a long, warm growing season is necessary. A sweltering climate will cause the grapes to develop high sugar levels, which will lead to a high alcoholic degree during fermentation. Therefore the aromatic notes will not fully develop.

Under natural conditions, this vine is very low-yielding.

Accompaniment of the Viognier

The Viognier is a wine that is a perfect companion for spicy and seasoned dishes, such as the typical dishes of Thai cuisine. Other good options to accompany this wine are grilled meat and fish, poultry, seafood, and soft cheeses.

Another good pairing of the Viognier in terms of sweet foods is the desserts based on fresh fruits with a moderate sweetness.

Combination With Other Strains

Viognier wine strains are considered red-hearted. The use of this strain for the production of red wines is very common. The French wine producers found that adding Viognier to the mix considerably improved the fermentation of red grapes. Adding this strain adds silkiness, aroma, acidity, and shine to the color of the wine.

In Australia and California, people use this formula also, and they state that a small portion of Viognier wine stabilizes the color of the wine and deepens its texture.

The Cote-Rotie is an appellation of origin very famous in France. This blend comes from the combination of Syrah and Viognier grapes, producing one of the Rhone’sRhone’s flagship wines.