Today is International Viognier Day, a recent celebration of the French white wine varietal, viognier, which was initiated in Australia. In this article, we tell you about viognier grapes, viognier wines, where viognier is grown and made, the history of International Viognier Day as well as perhaps most importantly sharing which French viogniers French wine importers recommend.
There are a few question marks over the various stories of viognier’s origins. Some claim that is is an ancient grape which originated in Dalmatia (what is now known as Croatia) which was brought to the Rhône by the Romans. There are two separate legends within this brought by Romans to France origin story. The first is that Roman Emperor Probus brought it to the region in 281AD. The second is that the viognier grape, packaged with syrah, was travelling on a cargo ship along the Rhône River en route to Beaujolais, which was captured by local outlaws known as culs de piaux.
There are even competing stories about the DNA research that has been done on viognier grapes. https://www.vinodiversity.com/ claims that Viognier is related to Mondeuse Blanc and to Shiraz and likely came about in the 18th century so well after Roman times. However, another suggests much more Italian origins. A 2004 Californian study found viognier was a close relation of Freisa, a grape from the Italian Piedmont region, and was a genetic cousin of Nebbiolo.
Even the origins of the name viognier are under dispute. It is commonly said to have taken its name from Vienne, near Lyon which was a major Roman outpost. It is also said to have taken its name from the Roman “via Gehennae”, meaning the “Road of the Valley of Hell”, which is likely a reference to the difficulty of growing viognier.
WHAT IS VIOGNIER?
Viognier is a yellow grape and a French white wine varietal. Due to disease, by 1965 only about 8 hectares existed in France but this has now increased again to about 300 hectares.
WHAT ARE VIOGNIER GRAPES LIKE?
Viognier grapes are a yellowy-green colour with thick skins. Unfortunately, it is a grape that is prone to powdery mildew and many other vineyard diseases. When ready for picking, the viognier grapes turn a deep yellow colour.
It grows well in warm climates and with long growing seasons but it also grows in cooler areas where soils retain heat.
WHAT IS VIOGNIER WINE LIKE?
WInes made from Viognier grapes have a clear golden colour and usually have apricot, apple, peach spice, floral, and citrus flavours,. They also tend to be dry, medium-bodied and low in acid.
The colour and aromas of the viognier varietal could tend to indicate a sweet wine but Viognier wines are predominantly dry, although sweet late-harvest dessert wines have been made from Viognier.
There’s also said to be two different strains of viognier which produce quite different viognier varietal wines within France. Wine expert Remington Norman says that there is the “Old World” strain, common in Condrieu, as well as a “New World” strain, found in the Languedoc and other areas
WHAT WINES DOES IT PRODUCE?
Viognier grapes are used to produce both single varietal wines as well as blends.
Single varietal wines
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.
- In the Rhône wine region, 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%.
WHAT OTHER NAMES DOES IT HAVE?
Bergeron, Barbin, Rebolot, Greffou, Picotin Blanc, Vionnier, Petiti Vionnier, Viogne, Galopine, Vugava bijela.
WHERE IS VIOGNIER GROWN AND MADE AROUND THE WORLD?
Outside of France, Viognier is produced across many countries of the world.
- California’s Central Coast is the leading producer with over 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of the grape planted
- In 2011 Viognier was named Virginia’s signature white grape.
- Viognier 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 is produced in British Columbia and the Niagara and Lake Erie North Shore regions of Ontario.
Valle de Guadalupe and Baja California both produce viognier.
Argentina and Chile have significant plantings of viognier. Some Brazilian and Uruguayan wine producers are also experimenting with viognier.
Yalumba is Australia’s largest producer of Viognier grapes.
Other areas with Viognier plantings include:
- Clare Valley,
- Murray River,
- McLaren Vale,
- Barossa Valley,
- Adelaide Hills,
- South Burnett,
- Nagambie Lakes,
- Mornington Peninsula,
- Yarra Valley,
- Rutherglen, and
THE HISTORY OF INTERNATIONAL VIOGNIER DAY
While Viognier is a French varietal, it was Australian wine producer Yalumba that set the date of the last Friday in April as the day for International Viognier Day. The 2021 edition is the first International Viognier Day.
FRENCH VIOGNIER RECOMMENDATIONS
Margot from Le Plonque shares her thoughts on viognier with us for International Viognier Day.
Since it’s International Viognier Day, let’s talk about this beautiful variety that people tend to forget!
Viognier originates from the Northern Rhone in France, it is a white variety that produces oily white wines that are often aged in oak (in the same way as for Chardonnay). If it was for a long time, a variety from the old world, it is now getting very popular in the New World, notably in California.
Viognier wines have a very aromatic nose, full of fruit and flowers, such as tangerine, peach, mango, honeysuckle and rose. They’re medium dry, medium-bodied, with low tannins and a medium acidity.
What to eat with your glass of Viognier? This wine pairs best with delicate meats or scallops, especially when flavoured with stewed fruit, almonds, citrus or aromatic herbs such as basil or tarragon.
If you’re looking for a nice bottle of Viognier to celebrate, try Viognier Sensation from Domaine de Saint-Benezet, south of France. It is currently available on our website for $17.90. Order a 6 Pack now and get a discount + FREE DELIVERY.
To place your order, follow the link below.
Happy International Viognier Day! What’s your favourite viognier?
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