New World Viognier

Plus 5 great wines to check out today

 


Viognier. It’s hard to pronounce and tough to figure out. Right? Well, no, it’s easy to pronounce [vee-yo-nyay] and fairly easy to figure out versions coming from the New World. Much of the confusion stems from our reluctance to learn about things we can’t pronounce. But seriously, one of the hurdles to understanding Viognier has been the fact that there are few Old Word examples to learn from.

Condrieu is an appellation in the northern Rhone famous for it’s Viognier, as is Chateau-Grillet, France’s smallest appellation and the only one dedicated to a single chateau. While each of these regions has a long history, the wines have always been rare and not inexpensive; and thus, few people have much experience with dry Viognier and in turn, there had been little interest in exploring the potential of the variety.

All that changed when Viognier hit the U.S. market. Not only did the peachy palate profile appeal to consumers, so did the price when the wines were produced in more forgiving regions.
Viognier is a relatively recent arrival to the U.S. with vineyard plantings popping up in the late 1980s. Interestingly, Roussanne was being planted in many of the same regions at the same time. As it turns out, much of what was planted as Roussanne was in fact an alternate clone of Viognier.

Viognier has found some success throughout the west coast, though in California both the Santa Ynez Valley and Paso Robles regions have shown the most promise. In these hot dry areas, disease issues (to which Viognier is quite susceptible) are kept to a minimum, while Viognier’s drought resistance is taken full advantage of.

The resultant grapes tend to be very ripe, packed with peach and honeysuckle aromas, but at the same time packing quite an alcoholic punch. Producers in Oregon have been hot on the heels of California’s, betting that their cooler climate can allow for perfumed wines with less alcohol and perhaps some more natural acidity than many of the examples coming from these warmer climates.

If there is one aspect of Viognier grapes that has caused angst amongst producers, it’s getting the polyphenol levels right in the wine. The skins of Viognier tend to be high in these phenols, which can add to the appealing oily texture of these wines when the skins are allowed to macerate in the juice. The downside happens to be some bitterness that can be produced from excessive phenol concentrations in wines.

What is the best level is a question that each winemaker and consumer needs to answer for him or herself. Thresholds for sensing bitterness and palate preferences being what they are, this is a question best left unanswered – though worth pointing out since many Viognier reviews make mention of this fact in one way or another.

While Viognier is known for its peach and floral aromas, these tend to be rather fleeting. The aromatic compounds behind these aromas and in particular the terpenes that lend Viognier (along with Riesling and Muscat grapes) its floral tones tend to be short-lived, making the vast majority of Viognier designed for immediate consumption.

Consumers should be aware of this. Viogniers are virtually all crafted with early consumption in mind, so go out and grab yourself one. These are fascinating wines, aromatic and rich; but admittedly they are not for everyone. Are they for you? Only one way to find out!

Click here for 5 great Viognier wines to try today


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Comments

  • Viognier also grows tremendously well in VIrginia. Viognier coming out of the state tends to have peach and floral notes along with a crisp minerality and hints of honeysuckle. Tarara Winery makes a very nice Viognier.

    May 02, 2011 at 11:57 AM


  • Snooth User: fillerup
    156682 33

    @Beltway you are absolutely right. My first taste of Virginia wines was at Chrysalis winery in Middleburg, VA where I was introduced to the Norton grape (indigenous to VA) as well as a spectacular Viognier. I look forward to trying some of Tarara's wines.

    May 02, 2011 at 12:06 PM


  • I LOVE Viognier and can pronounce it ! :)

    May 02, 2011 at 12:13 PM


  • Snooth User: madcowine
    375833 4

    At DuCard Vineyards, our new Virginia winery features Viognier, with two versions that each express the great peach and honeysuckle and wildflower profile. But like many small boutique operators, our wine is available only at our (gorgeous) tasting room. http://www.ducardvineyards.com

    May 02, 2011 at 12:40 PM


  • I love Viognier. This was one of the first wines I really got a passion for. Suprising enough one of the best I have had came from south west Colorado. There are some really good wines that come from there!!

    May 02, 2011 at 1:49 PM


  • Snooth User: joey1942
    754388 13

    I love Virginia Viognier also. I believe it's Horton Winery that has a great sparkling Viognier-best I've ever had !!

    May 02, 2011 at 2:54 PM


  • Snooth User: gerrad
    79282 57

    The viognier you yanks grow is maybe different to ours in oz. as as far as im aware, the dominant descriptor of the smell and taste of it is apricot! (peach we associate with chardonnay). of course i cant check that (nor vice-versa id expect) as hardly any yank wine makes it to oz (period!) except 'ridge' and no viognier from them id bet. Australian consumers dont seem to go for it in my retail experience- out of 1300 wines/lines in my shop, not all are there at once, but even if half are...maybe 2-4 are viognier! the thing is the cost of condrieu and the lack of examples avail for consumers to get near. my interest in it was due to its part in shiraz/viog (syrah/viog to you), where it can be useful if kept below 3% (or if the shiraz is pressed onto viog skins, [see TORBRECK- 'The Descendent' from Barossa valley] rather than actually co-fermented or added later. Either way you shouldnt be able to 'taste' the viognier, it should just be a supporting player in influence. Simply, no one has ever asked me ' do you have any viognier? They do however regularly mispronounce it when mentioning the aforementioned rhone blend shir/viog.

    May 02, 2011 at 3:14 PM


  • Snooth User: vinopat
    403315 3

    Gregory,
    Check out the winners in the Viognier class at many major, international competitions such as San Francisco, Pacific Rim, Dallas Morning News, etc. and you will see many from Texas. Viognier loves our climate and several Texas wineries, including our own, make wonderful wine from that grape. The only problem with Viognier is that people don't know about it.
    Pat Brennan, Brennan Vineyards, Comanche, Texas

    May 02, 2011 at 4:04 PM


  • Snooth User: chi3500
    832351 1

    I have enjoyed Viognier from California and Virginia but was amazed to discover several outstanding Viognier produced in North Carolina. My favorite are the 2008 and 2009 vintages from Chatham Hill Winery and the last vintage of Westbend Vineyard's Viognier.

    May 02, 2011 at 4:20 PM


  • Snooth User: Jerry001
    421843 2

    Gregory,
    My first time writing in, but I read your articles often. You finally hit on a wine that I had to write about. My first taste of a Viognier was at wine store in Arizona. The owner had a tasting counter and offered my wife and I a sample. I ended up bringing home a couple bottles. That was several years ago and unfortunately can't remember the winery, an the store was closed the next year when we returned. Since then I have come upon two other labels that I think are very good. One is from Rosenblum Cellars and the other from Sobon Estates. Both are from California and reasonably priced. I live in Michigan and haven't found much on the shelves here besides the Rosenblum that I care for. The Sobon I buy when I am in Florida at a warehouse style outlet that carries alot of everything. Thanks to all who write in with your comments, I enjoy the articles.

    May 02, 2011 at 4:34 PM


  • Snooth User: vinopat
    403315 3

    It sounds like there are Viogniers from "The other 46" that deserve some attention. Maybe Gregory will review several from Texas, Virginia, NC and Colorado.

    May 02, 2011 at 4:38 PM


  • I am not normally a big fan of white wine but love Viognier. My first encounter with this fine grape was in Australia. Have you tried Hastwell & Lightfoot Viognier (McLaren Vale)? Crisp, not overdone. My favorite by far. Horton in Virginia makes a nice Viognier too.

    May 02, 2011 at 4:45 PM


  • Snooth User: Blicher
    563736 2

    Over the last 5-6 years there has also been a tremendous development in South African Viognier. Mostly grown in the Swartland and Robertson regions.They pack tremendous flavors without the 24 hour after taste of creamy/wooded Chardonnay's. My favorites are Graham Beck and Spice Route.

    May 02, 2011 at 4:56 PM


  • Snooth User: swinnea
    483269 16

    @vinopat. Love your Viognier as well as other TX examples. I kind of wondered why these six were all west coast.

    May 02, 2011 at 5:07 PM


  • Love Viognier. It's a sometime staple around our house. Melville's Estate Viognier was the gateway drug for me and I also love Consilience's take on it. The cooler climate of Melville's vineyards are paving the way for the cooler-climate take that Oregon is aiming for as well. Consilience's Viognier is much more fruity, but not overly done. I'll have to check out some of the rest of the country's wines...although they aren't so easy to come by in my neck of the woods. Living in central coast California wine country leaves us pretty flooded with our own goods.

    May 02, 2011 at 5:16 PM


  • that comment should have said "summertime staple"...not sometime. Darn multi-tasking.

    May 02, 2011 at 5:18 PM


  • New World now means USA.
    Yealands Viognier in NZ is aromatic and crisp, very good wine. But here in Old World, can recommend French single varietals as a rule though you get more as you pay more in bouquet and flavour. As usual, vignerons independents are guarantors of typicity. Languedoc and Beziers areas good sources as well as rhones.

    May 03, 2011 at 5:28 AM


  • California Viogniers tend to be a touch hot for me, with judicious use of oak to boot. I prefer the Viognier's from Virginia, showing restraint yet not sacrificing the aromatics that make this wine truly special.
    Some really good examples coming out of other wine producing states as well.

    May 03, 2011 at 8:26 AM


  • It was a Viognier from Chile (Porta) that won over all the other white wines in our Virginia Wine bracket challenge, too: http://www.snooth.com/articles/wine...

    May 03, 2011 at 10:38 AM


  • You missed some of the best Viogniers in the USA that are from Texas:

    Becker Vineyards
    McPherson Cellars
    Brennan Vineyards

    see http://vintagetexas.com/blog

    May 03, 2011 at 11:13 AM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 213,062

    OK, folks. Time for a little outreach to the other 46, 47, or 48! Great to see how popular Viognier, both with consumers and producers. I'll be in Virginia for a brief visit this July, hope to track down some Viognier! As always thanks for all the great comments.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:50 PM


  • Snooth User: napagirl68
    Hand of Snooth
    87843 2,684

    http://www.tablascreek.com/wine/145/2010_Cotes_de_Tablas_Blanc
    oh baby....

    Mar 29, 2012 at 1:04 AM


  • Snooth User: Mydietarea
    1328028 33

    Fantastic...!!

    Aug 03, 2013 at 1:57 AM


  • Snooth User: jamchimps
    1385295 43

    Splendid...!!

    Oct 28, 2013 at 2:47 AM


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