Viognier almost met its end in the mid-1960s. As little as eight hectares of the grape in the tiny Rhône appellation of Condrieu stood between survival and extinction. After a successful revival worldwide, this trendy grape variety is now being praised for its unique characteristics and drinkability.
It’s a lush white from the French Rhone Valley, Syrah’s sister grape in fact, and one of the few white grapes that grows well in warmer climates. Its wines are rich and aromatic with pronounced notes of stone fruit (apricot and peach) often mingling with floral notes of orange blossom and honey. Some will finish with a lick of spice.
Due to its strong aromas, Viognier is able to withstand blending and is a lovely component, not only in blended white wines, but red wines as well. A small amount is often added to Syrah to give it a fragrant lift.
These medium/full bodied wines pair well with dishes that have some richness, such as lobster, crab, smoked fish, sea bass, chicken, duck, and pork. Add a touch of cream or cream cheese to give body and a bit of dried apricot or peach to pull the dish and wine into a tight match.
Viognier is not known for its ability to age, but 3-4 years after vintage it can develop more caramelised dried stone fruit flavours and a distinct savoury nuttiness. The Dignité Viognier from the Languedoc is at that stage now, and I absolutely love it for that extra depth and complexity. If you prefer your wine fresher and more youthful, the Tabalí Viognier might be more your thing.
Viognier should be easily found in most decent wine shops nowadays, and I would encourage anyone to go ahead and take a giant bite out of the apricot. Or peach. Or whatever stone fruit you might find.