The ‘hottest’ of the Rhône Valley trio, which includes Marsanne and Roussanne, Viognier is one of those relatively rare varieties which have been ‘discovered’ and now everyone wants a slice of the action.
Rippling out from the small appellation of Condrieu and the even tinier one of Château Grillet, the aromatic, powerful viognier with its hallmark blossom scents and apricot and peach-like flavours, has become the darling of Californians, and, latterly Argentina, Australia and the South of France too. It makes powerfully rich, dry whites made for drinking young, offering a delicious alternative style to Chardonnay.
The hallmark of the Viognier grape is the scent of spring blossom and jasmine and the rich flavours of apricot and peach. Ripening in warm sunshine, it can become quite heady and exotic with spicy undertones and plenty of body. Because of its spiciness sand body, it can be confused in blind tastings with Alsace Pinot Gris.
Famously the white grape of the northern Rhône, Viognier is also widely grown in the Languedoc in southern France, where its heady perfume of peach, apricot and honeysuckle and usually unoaked expressions make it a popular and food-friendly choice. It can be musky in character, and in general it’s best enjoyed in its youth as wines can develop an oily, even slightly bitter character with age.