To celebrate International Viognier Day 2022, a celebration of the white wine varietal, we’ve put together a list of 19 facts about Viognier. We also share a French wine importer’s Viognier recommendation.
- Origins of the viognier grape
The grape is very much at home in France but didn’t originate there. In fact, there are a few different theories about its origins. Some think that it originated in Dalmatia, which is known as Croatia today. For others, it has Italian origins.
- The Romans theory
As for how the grape came to be in France, there are are two theories about the grape being brought to France via the Romans. One is that it was Emperor Probus brought it to France in 281AD. The other is that local outlaws known as culs de piaux captured a cargo ship carrying viognier and syrah along the Rhône River on its way to the Beaujolais region.
- DNA Research
The theory that viognier grapes were brought to France, and more specifically to the Rhône by Romans is in question after DNA research suggests that Viognier is related to Mondeuse Blanc and Shiraz and probably came about in the 18th century, well after Roman times. Other research found that viognier is a close relation of Freisa, a grape from the Italian Piedmont region, and was a genetic cousin of Nebbiolo.
- The name viognier
Even the origins of the name are under dispute! Some believe it takes its name from Vienne, near Lyon, a major Roman outpost. Others think it comes from he Roman “via Gehennae”, meaning the “Road of the Valley of Hell”, which is likely a reference to the difficulty of growing viognier.
- Also known as
Viognier is also known as Bergeron, Barbin, Rebolot, Greffou, Picotin Blanc, Vionnier, Petiti Vionnier, Viogne, Galopine, Vugava bijela.
- Viognier grapes
Viognier grapes are yellowy-green and have thick skins. When ripe, the colour turns a deep yellow.
- Suited to warm climates
Viognier grows well in warm climates and with long growing seasons but it can also thrive in cooler climates where soils retain heat.
- Disease prone
Viognier is a challenging grape to grow as it is prone to powdery mildew among other vineyard diseases.
- Viognier wines generally
Single varietal wines made from viognier grapes are a clear golden colour. Apple, apricot, citrus, floral and peach flavours are often present in viognier wines. The wines are usually dry but sweet late-harvest dessert wines have been made from Viognier grapes).
- Viognier in France
After largely dying out due to disease down to just 8 hectares, thankfully French viognier plantations have now grown to about 300 hectares.
- Viognier wines in France
Wine expert Remington Norman says that there are two different strains of Viognier in France: the “Old World” strain, common in Condrieu, as well as a “New World” strain, found in the Languedoc and other areas.
- Viognier grapes are the only permitted grape for the French wine Condrieu in the Rhône Valley. In Languedoc, most Viogniers are sold as Vin de Pays..
- Viognier in French blends
In the Rhône, the grape is often blended with Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache blanc, and Rolle. In the Northern Rhône, the grape is sometimes blended with Chardonnay. In the Côte-Rôtie AOC, red wine blends can include up to 20% of Viognier though most winemakers add no more than 5%
- Viognier around the world
Outside of France, Viognier is grown in many places including USA, Canada, Mexico, South America and Australia.
- Viognier in South America
Argentina and Chile have significant plantings of viognier. Some Brazilian and Uruguayan wine producers are also experimenting with viognier.
- Viognier in the USA
California’s Central Coast is the leading producer with over 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of viognier planted. In 2011, Viognier was named Virginia’s signature white grape. It is also grown in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Missouri and Arizona.
- Viognier in Australia
Yalumba is Australia’s biggest producer of Viognier grapes and wines. It is however also found in the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and Murray Rive in South Australia. Viognier is also grown in Canberra, South Burnett in Queensland, Geelong, Mornington Peninsula, Nagambie Lakes, Rutherglen, The Pyrenees and Yarra Valley in Victoria. It is also found in Geographe in Western Australia.
- International Viognier Day
This is the second edition of International Viognier Day which was first celebrated in 2021. It’s actually Australian winery, Yalumba, who declared the last Friday of April to be International Viognier.
- Get social
Celebrate the varietal and International Viognier Day 2022 by using the #internationalviognierday and #viognierday on your photos on social media. Also tag us @matildamarseillaise so we can see what you’re drinking and how you’re celebrating the day.
WHICH VIOGNIER SHOULD YOU DRINK FOR INTERNATIONAL VIOGNIER DAY 2022?
Ashleigh Huggins from Clos Cachet shares her International Viognier Day 2022 recommendation with us.
Which Viognier wine would you recommend for International Viognier Day and why?
Jean-Marc Lafont – Galopines Viognier 2017 is a very unique wine for the Beaujolais wine region with the winemaker Lafont taking a new approach in order to adapt to the changing environment around him. By planting varietals often found further south they are more used to the warmer climates and can adapt their ripening cycle. This the perfect bottle to celebrate the uniqueness and vibrancy of the Viognier varietal with this wine boasting lovely lemony, pear and jasmine aromas and the flavour finishing with a delicate touch of hazelnut. The palate is pure, mineral and rich, all round finishing on lovely spicy flavours of coriander and nutmeg.
What sort of wine is Viognier for those who are unfamiliar?
The Viognier varietal is a white grape, primarily found in the Rhone Valley, hence why a Beaujolais version is so rare and unique. The grape thrives in a warmer climate and ripens best when it has had a long, warm year to reach its full potential. The Rhone Valley works best for the grapes as the various elevations of parcels allows the perfect temperature to be found. Overall it is a difficult and low yielding grape that is yet to be as big as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, but can present just as delicious wines.
How does French Viognier vary from other Viogniers?
Enjoyed both within blends and as single varietal wines, French winemakers utilise the grape in white blends, with a few Côte-Rôtie combinations of Viognier and Syrah. By planting on steep slopes the grapes gather a vast range of aromatics and floral notes from the passing wind and deep soils. This contrasts to the more full-bodied and simply flavoured grapes of Australian Viognier where it remains primarily a single varietal wine, with some Shiraz blends. It is also a lot more widespread around the country, whereas in France, it is less likely to find Viognier outside of the Rhone Valley region.
What would you pair this wine with?
There are many ways to enjoy this wine but always ideal as an aperitif, or with elements such as foie gras, veal sweetbreads, asparagus, lobster or scallops.
Happy International Viognier Day 2022! Which Viognier will you drink to celebrate?
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