Viognier | Vincabulary

Call it a Capital V for Victory for Viognier. The mighty aristocratic, yet highly hedonistic, white grape of the Northern Rhone has experienced a renaissance of unseen proportions over the last 25 years. When Jancis Robinson penned Vines, Grapes & Wines in 1985, she pegged Viognier plantings at only 32 hectares worldwide, with nearly all coming from the northern Rhone. This low yield, low acid, high alcohol and high colour white grape was entirely unfashionable, not to mention unprofitable, and hard to manage in the vineyard as physiological ripening happens so late in the season. But oh my the aromas: exotic jasmine, violet, musk, peach, apricot and honeysuckle perfume are typical on the nose.


The higher alcohol and sugar levels provide a fuller bodied, creamier wine, one imbued with these perfumed, alluring aromatics. These gregarious and expressive traits have made it a welcome blending partner, chiefly with Rhone buddies Roussanne and Marsanne, and also infamously with Syrah. When the pendulum swung (as it always does) and this fragrant, fuller styled wine became popular, plantings skyrocketed around the world, chiefly in Australia (I will always remember The Viognier Monologues thanks to Jane Ferrari at Yalumba), Chile and California. The grape can handle some oak, but too much will quickly mask the perfumed theatrics that Viognier wears so well, and overcropping will turn this lower-acid grape into a flabby, watery soup. This seductive but finicky grape can easily become a winemaker’s worst nightmare, so knowing your producers is of elevated importance.


That seductiveness and over-the-top exuberance of most Viogniers mean that it’s love it or leave it for many wine drinkers. Interestingly enough, it’s the same divided opinion for Viognier’s reputed genetic grape relative – Nebbiolo.



Y Series Viognier 2012
South Australia, Australia
$18-21  14.5%
Yalumba is the preeminent Aussie Viognier producer, and with good reason. Spicy white pepper, jasmine and ginger leap out of the glass, with struck stone, thistle, juicy apricot, peach and lychee notes leading to a juicy citrus finish. The savoury/sweet fruit balance is pitched perfectly in this consistent, go-to Viognier.



Paul Mas
Viognier 2012
Pays d’Oc IGP, Languedoc, France
$14-17  13.5%
This wine will transport you back to spring in the south of France. Floral laden hedge, musky spice, acacia blossom and young peach flesh out this smooth, medium bodied wine. A welcome herbed twist of bitter peach pit tempers the garden in your glass.



Le Vieux Pin
Ava 2011
Oliver, Okanagan Valley, BC
*$35-40  12.3%
The complexities in this aromatic wine come both from the blend (78% Viognier, 11% Roussanne, 11% Marsanne) and the concentration of the full, perfumed, sun-primed fruit. Huge acacia, violet and rose aromatics, dried herbs and overripe peach burst from this juicy wine. A lovely toasty spiced orange blossom note closes out the lengthy finish.



The Bernard Series handpicked Viognier 2011
WO Coastal Region, South Africa
$27-32  13.5%
If you are looking for a full-on, full-bodied, no apologies white, here you go. Overripe grapes are fermented and aged in one-year old French oak, resulting in a vanillan-imbued lush wine with layers of tropical fruit, musk, oak spice and perfumed flowers.



M. Chapoutier
Invitare 2011
AC Condrieu, Northern Rhone, France
*$66-70  13%
It’s impossible to understand Viognier without going to the top, all the way to Northern France’s tiny Condrieu AC. Hefty yet agile, with textured layers of complexity that deepen with each swirl. Heavy cream, honey, delicate floral blossom, slate, citrus, apricot, spice and savoury saltiness. Full and creamy palate, with enough mineral-driven acidity to carry through the very lengthy finish.



Cono Sur
Biciclata Viognier 2012
Colchagua, Chile
$11-13  13.5%
If people want to taste a textbook example of Viognier, I hand them a bottle of this. Peach and ginger scents lead to juicy pear, fragrant apricot and tropical orange blossom on the plump palate. Honeysuckle and a pretty spice note finish off.


DRINKing Guide: How to use our purchasing information.

*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

Comments are closed.