Viognier is no easy grape to grow. The plants are susceptible to all kinds of diseases, such as powdery mildew. Yields can be extremely low, due in no small part to uneven ripening. To make matters worse, if growers pick the grapes too late, the acidity will be so low they might as well make brandy out of them.
This may be why the grape was headed toward extinction. In 1965 only a few acres of Viognier remained under cultivation in Condrieu, in the grape's Rhone Valley homeland. Since then, Viognier has been making a comeback — first in Condrieu and then in the south of France in Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence.
Later, the plantings spread to California and Australia. To give you an idea of the escalation: In 1993 California crushed 231 tons of Viognier grapes. Ten years later that increased to 9,800 tons.
A Gift of Flowers and Perfume
When Viognier prospers it produces arguably the most aromatic wines in the world, replete with vibrant floral qualities. The classic Old World style of Viognier is crisp, dry, and intense. As winemakers around the world craft their own Viogniers, more style variations appear. While cooler regions of California produce a style closer to the French classic, wines from warmer areas are richer and fuller.
It's rare for France to permit the use of a white wine grape in a high-quality red wine. But in an unusual twist in the vineyards of the Côte Rôtie, Viognier vines are planted among Syrah vines. The white and red grapes are harvested and vinified together to produce the highly regarded Côte Rôtie red wines.
A FEW VIOGNIER SELECTIONS
Alban Vineyards Viognier (Arroyo Grande, California)
Château de Campuget Viognier (France)
Yalumba Viognier (Australia)
Pride Mountain Viognier (Spring Mountain, Napa Valley, California)