What is Viognier Wine?
Viognier is a white grape that is used to make varietal wines of the same name. Viognier wine requires high levels of skill from the winemaker due to the volatility of the grapes during fermentation. Viognier grapes are susceptible to hot temperature as sugar levels can increase quickly during ripening. However, Viognier grapes do require extended exposure to warmth to develop without ripening too quickly. Viognier is often blended with Shiraz to add vibrancy and sheen to the wine as well as an enticing apricot-like and honeysuckle aroma.
Common Viognier Wine characteristics
Viognier wines are distinct in taste and texture. They are fragrant and can be full-textured (sometimes with a texture referred to as oily) and full-bodied. The grape itself displays no distinct character until ripening. Timing the Viognier harvest is critical and getting it right reaps rewards of ripe stone fruits and honeysuckle.
Pairing food with Viognier Wine
Viognier is arguably THE food wine as its acidity is present enough to deal with many fatty foods. A pork cutlet with a spicy Asian marinade would be a big ask for many white wines, but Viognier is up to the challenge. It even has enough guts to deal with spice, particularly associated with Indian food.
Viognier and poultry is also a fine combination and the scope of the wine, with respect to other foods, make this the perfect white wine for a traditional Christmas turkey meal. For something lighter, Viognier goes delightfully with shellfish, especially scallops.
Notable Viognier Wine regions
One example of a relatively new Viognier superstar is in the Canberra region with Clonakilla's Shiraz Viognier. This wine has received awards and acclaim with its elegant and contemporary style. The demand for Shiraz blended with Viognier has had a great impact on the Shiraz market. Winemakers have started to add the Viognier varietal to the label where previously it was absent. Viognier in this region can find a more accomodating Shiraz than the blockbusters of the Barossa Valley.
Other than a few nursery vines in Barossa, Yalumba in South Australia planted the first Viognier vineyard in the 1980's. More than 35 years later, Yalumba still produces some of the best varietal Viognier in Australia.
Rhône Valley, France
Viognier is, of course, mostly associated with the Rhône Valley in France. In this region, Shiraz, or Syrah as it is known in France, is blended with Viognier and has inspired Australian winemakers to seek success with this style. Condrieu is a region within the Rhône Valley where the wines must contain 100% Viognier. In the 1970's only 20 acres of these vines existed in the world concentrated in Condrieu. From here, cuttings were taken all over the world to avoid extinction.
The future of Viognier Wine
The low-yielding vines and the volatility of the Viognier grape combined with the skill required to handle the fermentation process means this is wine is unlikely to compete with the likes of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Viognier also doesn’t cellar all that well, only three to four years by some estimates. In spite of these hurdles, Viognier is the hottest varietal wine in Australia mostly because of its delightful combination with Shiraz.