Chateau Grillet in France’s northern Rhone area of Condrieu, is said to be the ancestral home of Viognier and is still responsible for one of the finest examples of this grape variety in the world, and perhaps the most expensive!
A relative newcomer to the world’s wine stage, Viognier has been increasing steadily in popularity with growers and consumers since only as recently as the early 1990’s.
My fist encounter with Viognier, away from its birthplace was further down
from the northern Rhone, in the Languedoc region of southwest France.
The soil types and climate here are very similar to the Rhone so it is proving to be a natural second home for Viognier, enabling it to find new opportunities for wine success and without losing its personality!
I was travelling through the wine appellation of St Chinian in Languedoc and just by chance stopped off at a small wine estate called Chateau Belot. Run by the Belot family for many years it was here I was offered my first taste of Viognier in this region. It was delicious and inspiring, not as concentrated as the wines of Condrieu, but lighter, refreshing and much less expensive.
Viognier is now something of a fashion statement within wine consumers, almost emulating the rise to stardom of Pinot Grigio, but to my mind with a more consistent identity.
Other countries are now capitalising upon this trend such as Australia, Chile, Argentina and particularly California, where some of the Viognier creations are more full-bodied and higher in alcohol than from other regions. In fact some Viognier wines produced in California are proving to be as rich and exotic as those of France’s Condrieu and part of this success story may be due to the fact that Viognier loves the sun. Wine regions with warmer climates will always be more successful in producing quality Viognier wine in its original style than those with cooler environments.
Viognier has the structure of the finer Chardonnays but does not need the influence of oak maturation to be at its best and because of its very individual and naturally aromatic style it has also become a popular blending partner with Chardonnay, especially in the wine countries of the ‘New World’.
The Style of Viognier
What do we look for in a good example of Viognier wine?
On the Eye: Pale to mid straw moving to a lighter honey gold hue for more concentrated Viognier wines.
On the Nose: Pears, apricots, peaches and ripe melon with hints of cardamom, cinnamon and ginger, also floral notes are present.
On the Palate: Its most notable flavour is apricot enhanced with scents of white peach.
Matching Viognier with Food
Light chicken dishes are suitable but to my mind fish and seafood make the best partners. Try this recipe for baked Halibut with Montpellier Butter, a typical Languedoc garnish for any white meaty fish.
See our matching recipe: Halibut with Montpellier Butter
Alan Hunter AIWS,