Golden, aromatic Viognier is an ancient variety going back to at least Roman times and comes from the Rhone Valley in southern France. It makes some of the most distinctively fragrant wines in the world. The peach, honey and floral aromas might lead you to expect something delicate, but it’s also famous for being rather voluptuous on the palate and generous in alcohol.
It’s found in other parts of the world, but not in quantity. It’s a low yielding, capricious variety that’s highly susceptible to mildew and many growers just can’t be bothered. You might call it a winemaker’s grape. It’s found a happy home in some parts of California, certainly here in Napa Valley, albeit in small quantities. It makes perfect sense to grow it here because one thing we know about Viognier is that it won’t reveal that haunting perfume unless it’s completely ripe. It needs to be grown in a relatively warm climate.
Viognier takes well to blending and, with the exception of the northern Rhone (where it’s often blended with Syrah!), it’s usually blended with other Rhone whites like Marsanne and Rousanne. Otherwise, it has a willing partner in Chardonnay, a combination sometimes found in the Languedoc and the new world.
No matter where it comes from the question of whether to oak or not to oak never has a clear answer. Some are produced in a very Chardonnay-like style with barrel fermentation and aging, while our winemaker at Goosecross prefers to showcase the fruit by avoiding the influence of oak.
With its ample mouth feel it can be a nice alternative to Chardonnay and is more versatile at the table than you might think. Viognier makes a fruity contrast to spicy Asian or Indian cuisine and partners well with sushi. The stone-fruit character complements sweet proteins like shellfish, pork or duck, especially when fruit is used in the sauce. You can find delicious recipes to pair with Viognier or any other variety if you go to Colleen’s Kitchen.