Viognier (“Vee-own-yay”) is a full-bodied white wine that originated in southern France. Most loved for its perfumed aromas of peach, tangerine and honeysuckle, Viognier can also be oak-aged to add a rich creamy taste with hints of vanilla. If you love to brood over bolder white wines like Chardonnay, Viognier is definitely something you’ll like to swirl.
Viognier is for those who love to stop and smell the flowers. Viognier ranges in taste from lighter flavors of tangerine, mango and honeysuckle to creamier aromas of vanilla with spices of nutmeg and clove. Depending on the producer and how it’s made, it will range in intensity from light and spritzy with a touch of bitterness to bold and creamy. If you like Chardonnay you’ll like the weight of Viognier and notice it’s often a little softer on acidity, a bit lighter and also more perfumed.
On the palate, the wines are typically dry although some producers will make a slightly off-dry style that embellishes Viognier’s peachy aromas. Viognier wines are almost always noted for an oily sensation on the middle of the tongue which is a characteristic of wines made with this grape. The drier styles come across less fruity on the palate and deliver subtle bitterness almost like crunching into a fresh rose petal.
Roasted Chicken, Chicken Curry, Quail, Pork Chop with Apricot Sauce, Roast Turkey Breast, Teriyaki Tofu, Sesame Tempeh, Pan Seared Tilapia with Avgolemono Sauce, Halibut, Sea Bass, Lobster, Crab, Shrimp, Poached Salmon, Savory Orange Chicken
Fondue, Farmer’s Cheese, Comté, Baked Brie with Apricots, Gruyere, Young Sheep’s Milk Cheeses
Orange Zest, Lemon Zest, Marjoram, Tarragon, Fresh Dill, Fresh Sage, Herbs de Provence, Coriander, Lemongrass, Ginger, Galangal, Shallot, Green Garlic, Green Onion, Chives, Nutmeg, Allspice, Mace, White Pepper, Pink Peppercorn, Saffron, Turmeric, Fennel Seeds, Ajwain seeds
Leeks, Fennel, Green Olives, Capers, Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Delicata Squash, Pumpkin, Kabocha Squash, Currants, Cranberries, Polenta, Leeks, Onions, Sesame Seeds, Yellow and Orange Bell Pepper, Passion Fruit, Apricots, Orange, Mango
There are a few things to pay attention to while searching tasting notes online when you’re buying Viognier:
- Viognier ranges from about 13.5%–15% alcohol by volume (ABV). This might not seem like a big jump but, on the palate, the extremes will taste like 2 very different wines. If you prefer a lighter, leaner Viognier, seek out wines that range from about 14% ABV or less. And if you want to have a richer, bolder, fruit-forward style, get a higher alcohol style.
- Stylistic Differences
- Generally speaking, there are 2 stylistic differences that winemakers choose between when producing Viognier: new oak aging vs neutral/no oak aging. New oak aging delivers a richer creamier taste, lower acidity and aromas of clove, nutmeg and vanilla. Neutral and no oak aging (made in Stainless steel) will deliver more floral and tropical fruit flavors in the wine while maintaining its acidity and often a subtle bitter note.
- Viognier produces the best wines when it grows in sunny regions with temperatures moderated by cool nights or nearby bodies of water. The importance of cool weather is to maintain Viognier’s precious acidity. When seeking out fine Viognier wines you’ll notice these regional traits. Here are a few examples of where to look:
- Northern Rhône Valley in France (Condrieu and Château-Grillet)
- Walla Walla and Columbia Valley in Washington
- Stellenbosch, Franshhoek and Elgin in South Africa
- Eden Valley (Barossa) and Adelaide Hills, South Australia
- Paso Robles, Central and North Coast of California