Viognier has become popular in the last few years, with many people asking, “What is viognier wine?” Many new wineries include viognier in their list of wines. This article will discuss the origins of viognier, how it is made, how the wine tastes like, its aroma profile (including flavors and scents), and appropriate food pairings.
Viognier is a rare and highly esteemed wine grape. It has high-yield, low acid, and high pH requirements (6.9) and exhibits a poor natural resistance to many grape diseases. This makes it critically important for viticulturists to pay close attention to site selection and to manage crop levels carefully. Viognier is also difficult to grow, requiring more rigorous pruning, higher trellising, and leaf removal during the growing season.
Viognier leaves usually have five lobes; however, there are some ways that one can distinguish between different types of Viognier vines. For example, most American producers and nurseries that sell this variety of grape produce very fruit-forward wines with aromas and flavors of apricot, peach, nectarine, and honeysuckle. On the other hand, producers in Australia tend to use grapes with higher acidity levels which might result in wines such as those normally found from Roussanne or Marsanne, and aromas of peach blossoms often characterize their wines.
The grapes themselves grow in clusters that can be small or large with round blackberries. If one were to crush individual grape berries and do a quick smell test, sap and citrus aromas would be detected because these aromas come from the compound linalool. For the most part, these aromas would also be accompanied by floral notes that come from geraniol, which is another compound found in this variety of grape.
One can drink viognier wines in various categories made in different parts of the world today. Generally speaking, there are dry to sweet styles available, with most of these wines possessing flavors and aromas that remind people of spring flowers with peach, apricot, and floral fruit notes. Depending on the conditions in which growers produce viognier grapes, they tend to have very good levels of acidity.
The Origin of Viognier Wine
In the world of wine, certain grapes have become synonymous with a sense of place. These wines often win global acclaim for their specific flavor profiles and terroir-specific aromas. Some examples include Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France, Syrah from the Rhône Valley in France, and Shiraz from Australia. While these grapes are the most famous, several others have been cultivated and perfected over hundreds of years to become wine royalty. One such grape is Viognier.
Viognier came from the northern Rhone Valley in France and was often blended with Marsanne and Roussanne until it began to gain recognition as a stand-alone grape in the late 20th century. The grape is known for its high-quality fruit that brings intense aromatics and rich flavors to light, white wines. These distinctive qualities led to its growing popularity among producers around the world.
Today, Viognier has three main growing regions: France, the US, and Australia. While most of its global production is still in the Rhône, many wineries in California’s Central Coast region have added it to their vineyards. In Australia, it is grown in the Mt. Lofty and Adelaide Hills regions of South Australia and the Hunter Valley. Most recently, it has found a new footing in Washington State.
What Does Viognier Wine Taste Like?
The flavor of viognier wine depends on how its different aromas interact. The smell often contains complex floral notes, like roses and lilacs. It also hints at fruits like apricots, apples, peaches, and pears. Viognier wines may be white or pink, depending on the skin contact they underwent during winemaking.
Viognier wines also tend to be rich and buttery. It is common for viognier grapes to be blended with chardonnay and Riesling grapes because their flavors can counterbalance one another and produce a wine with a unique and good taste. The grape’s acidity also makes it an ideal blend with lower acidity wines. Here are other reasons that make this popular wine taste so good:
Tannins are found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. In the winemaking process, these grape parts are separated from the juice and fermented separately from the skins to avoid a bitter flavor in your wine. The more tannin used in making wine, the crisper and more acidic the wine will taste. Tannins also help preserve wines by giving them a slightly bitter but dry feeling in your mouth. When tannin levels are low, it means you get to enjoy an overall smoother and sweeter flavor without compromising on texture or crispness. That’s why many people who can’t enjoy other types of wine can drink Viognier.
The Blend is Key
A great blend of multiple grape varietals makes for even greater tasting wine. Some other varietals in Viognier wines are Grenache, Roussanne, and Marsanne, while Pinot Gris and Chenin Blanc are often included in white Viognier wines. Generally speaking, the more grape varietals blended to create a wine, the better it tastes.
Viognier grapes can be grown anywhere since they adapt well to changing climates and soils. However, growers have found that Viognier grapes grown in the United States tend to produce a fruitier and more floral tasting wine than Viognier grapes grown in southern France. The cooler climate of California allows for the development of more bright, fresh, and fruity flavors, while Viognier grapes grown in warmer climates like southern France tend to be more full-bodied with higher alcohol content.
How to Pair Viognier Wines with Different Dishes
When people think about pairing wine with food, they automatically think of classic combos like lamb and red or fish and white. But what about when you want to keep things light? Viognier is a great summer wine that goes well with all kinds of dishes. To help you show off your newfound pairing expertise, here are eight great combinations.
Chicken with Lemon and Basil Sauce: A light white wine goes better with chicken than a heavy red does. For this dish, go with a Viognier with some peach hints or apricot to complement the lemon-basil sauce. The floral nose of Viognier will be a nice complement to the lemon.
Chicken in Garlic-Ginger Sauce: When you want chicken with an Asian flair, go for a spicy Viognier. The garlic and ginger in this dish are perfect for bringing out some of the more exotic aromas in Viognier. A New World style Viognier will have a fruitier nose, while an Old World style Viognier will have more herbal notes.
Spicy Chili: For a chili with a medium heat level, go for a spicy Viognier. This dish’s chili spices and medium tannins can handle stronger wines, so don’t worry about going too high in alcohol. A medium-bodied Viognier will go great with this meal, and the spice of the chili will complement the tangy fruit flavors in Viognier.
Shrimp and Grits: With a creamy sauce and plenty of spicy Cajun seasoning, this dish brings out all kinds of strong flavors. Try a medium-bodied Viognier with some hints of minerality to complement those flavors. This style of wine will help cleanse your palate after each bite of this spicy dish.
Salmon: You can never go wrong with salmon, and it goes well with Viognier. Look for a citrusy New World style Viognier with peach and apricot notes for the best flavor. These flavors will enhance the subtle fishiness in salmon while also highlighting its buttery flavor.
Fish Tacos with Radish Slaw: If you want to keep things simple, try fish tacos with Viognier. The fruit flavors in this light-bodied wine will bring out some nice tropical notes in the slaw, and the carbonation will help scrub the palate clean after each bite.
Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions: For a great summer pairing that is easy to make, look no further than Italian sausage with peppers and onions. The combination of fruity New World Viognier with sweet bell peppers makes for a tasty treat. This pairing will go great with hamburgers, steaks, and hot dogs as well.
Pizza Night: For the perfect pairing for your next pizza night, try Viognier. The light body of this wine can handle all kinds of different toppings, so you don’t have to worry about choosing between pepperoni and pineapple. It also goes great with garlic knots and Calzones.
Asparagus: Look no further than asparagus with hollandaise sauce for a simple side dish. This wine’s light body and bright acidity will help cleanse your palate after each bite and cut through the richness of the egg yolk in the sauce.
In conclusion, Viognier is a wine with a distinctive taste and smell created by blending it with other wines. The taste of the wine comes from the aromas of flowers found in its vineyard. For instance, honeysuckle, jasmine, and violets. Viognier is high in alcohol content with an average of 14% but may go up to 16-18%. The aroma of this wine comes from the terroir in which it was grown. Usually, the wine is best paired with spicy or roasted foods.