The precise historical origin of this varietal is unknown, but many believe it dates back to the
Viognier is the only grape used for the Northern Rhône appellations Condrieu and Château-Grillet, one of
smallest appellation contrôlée, with less than ten acres and only one owner.
Cote Rotie producers have the option of adding a bit of Viognier to their
Syrah, though most don’t. The soils of the Northern Rhône
have a light sandy topsoil over granite which is ideal for the varietal. The
vines producing the best wines are over 20 years old (the Northern
Rhône has vines of 70 years or older).
Like Roussanne, Viognier produces a small crop and provides many challenges along the way. It is prone to powdery mildew in damp conditions or humid climates. It produces notoriously low and unpredictable yields, and needs to be picked when fully ripe. The grape develops high sugar quickly, which translates to wines with high alcohol, but if they are not physiologically ripe the wine will not show its characteristic floral, apricot and acacia aromas and honeyed characteristics.
In its best expression, the wine is as fat and silky on the midpalate as Grand Cru
Burgundy, and shares the
same minerality. The difference is the delicate floral aromas and ripe apricot
flavors rather than classic white Burgundy's
creme brulee and butterscotch. There is nothing quite like the decadent
enjoyment of a floral, exotic, honeyed Condrieu with a handful of ripe
Viognier is planted in
Australia, Brazil, and in the USA
- Colorado, New York,
North Carolina, Oregon,
Washington, and California. California
Viogniers, such as those made by Napa Valley's Joseph Phelps Vineyards and Josh Jensen's
Calera Wine Co. in San Benito County near Monterey,
are much richer, concentrated, intense and fruitier than French versions, with
more emphasis on mango and peach and less on minerality.
Viognier: floral, apricot, acacia, honey, tropical, mango, peach, low acid, dry to sweet.
Viognier: Rhone Valley, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa Valley, Sierra Foothills, Central Valley, Central Coast, Santa Barbara.
Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Les Chaillets Vieilles Vignes, Rhône Valley (France)
Francois Villard Condrieu, 'Le Grand Vallon, Rhône Valley (France)
Guigal Condrieu, Rhône Valley (France)
Yves Gangloff Condrieu Late Harvest, Rhône Valley (France)
Calera Mt. Harlan Viognier,
Central Coast, California ( USA)
Joseph Phelps Viognier,
Napa Valley, California
Domaine de Coudoulet Viognier, Vin de Pays d’Oc (France)
Renaissance Winery Viognier, North
© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.