Thu 26 Feb 2015

Viognier: It’s All Peachy


With plantings under 50ha at one point (the vast majority in the Rhône), extinction seemed on the horizon for the viognier grape, with the tiny Condrieu appellation apparently destined to be its only real representation.

Viognier’s vulnerability in the vineyard to both disease and pests coupled with its low-yielding nature, specific soil-type preference and the necessity for a great deal of warmth to achieve adequate ripeness all had a part to play in this dwindling quantity of vines.

Viognier growing in South Africa

Viognier growing in South Africa

However, Viognier has since seen a resurgence and now is planted the world over from Australia to California, Chile to Languedoc-Roussillon, where its challenging nature has yielded a plethora of styles to enjoy. Take for example the luscious McManis Viognier 2012 (USA, £10.95 per bottle), the fresh and crisp-finishing Tahbilk Nagambie Lakes Viognier 2013 (Australia, £9.95), the opulent barrel-fermented Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Viognier 2013 (Chile, £8.50) and the more classically styled Viognier, Domaine du Bòsc 2013 (south of France, £7.25).

With aromas that allude to apricots and peaches, taking in honeysuckle and violets backed up with subtle spice and offering body and texture, viognier, even in small proportions, can also bring so much to a blend.

Its addition in small quantities to the red wine Côte-Rôtie is well known. For a winter warmer, The Wolftrap, Western Cape 2013 (South Africa, £7.25) matches the brooding red syrah and mouvèdre varieties with viognier, which adds glorious lift and interest.

White blends benefit from not only this fragrance addition but also the weight it brings to the wine. Take for example two members’ favourites from France, Les Pierres Bordes Marsanne-Viognier 2013 (£5.95) and Duo Des Deux Mers, Sauvignon-Viognier Vin De France 2014 (£6.25) where the complementary nature of viognier not only fattens the wine but brings its unique bouquet to the mix too. The same can be said of South Africa’s Piekeniers White, Piekenierskloof 2013 (£7.75).

Modest use of oak can enhance viognier further, adding a new dimension – as can be seen in The Liberator ‘Butch & The Sunrise Kid’, Western Cape 2013 (£9.95) as well as the Bulgarian The Guardians MRV, Borovitza 2011 (£14.95).

Condrieu - viognier's heartland

Condrieu – viognier’s heartland

In its Rhône heartland, Grignan Les Adhémar Blanc Cuvée Gourmandise, Domaine de Montine 2013 (£7.95) shows how even in a group of varieties the characteristics of viognier shine through and produces a great food-friendly wine. Indeed, viognier’s perfume and body suits many foods, especially the sweet meat of shellfish and it also displays an affinity for spicier Asian foods and curries.

I have not even touched on some of the southern French and Rhône examples of this grape that reveal its fine wines and aging credentials, but I think the above displays that for this most finicky fruit, the outlook is peachy!

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom


  1. Charles Jagger says:

    Hello, just read your article and there was no mention of New Zealand. We have just visited a lovely cellar in Napier called Church Road and drunk a delicious Viognier (Church Road Grand Reserve) accompanied with their food platter. The vineyard was originally set up by a man called MacDonald. I recommend a visit, it is most interesting. In fact we visited many wineries in this area and had some lovely whites but the reds were somewhat disappointing, must be something to do with the Southern Hemisphere.
    Regards, Charles Jagger.

    • Conrad Braganza says:

      Thank you for your comment, Mr Jagger. Glad you enjoyed the viognier and what a lovely food match!
      We currently do not have a New Zealand wines that have viognier in them, but I will pass your comments and details of the winery you mentioned to the buyer for New Zealand, Sarah Knowles.

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