In the mid-1960s, there were only three hectares of Viognier vines known to exist, in the northern Rhône region. Today, there are more than 160 hectares and they are spread across the world. The appeal of Viognier is its exceptional perfume and body, and it is often compared to Chardonnay, albeit with more aroma and less acidity. It is the perfect time to try Viognier, just as winemakers in Europe and beyond are experimenting with this newly rediscovered grape.
Viognier can make full bodied wine with fruity, floral and heady aromas of honeysuckle, blossom, apricots and musk. It is usually dry, with a slight oiliness on the tongue. Much of its qualities depend on how it is aged. When in new oak barrels, it tends towards a rich and creamy wine, with lower acidity and notes of nutmeg and vanilla. Aged in old oak or stainless steel, Viognier wines can be more tropical, with more acidity and bitter notes. It is usually used in blends.
The vine grows best in places with lots of daytime sun and cool nights, as it needs to stay relatively cool in order to preserve its acidity. Planting near to water can help keep it at the temperatures it requires. This is what makes the northern Rhône such an ideal place to grow the vines. For best results, the grapes should be left on the vine for an extended period of time in order to fully develop.
Growers are currently experimenting with Viognier in France, Switzerland and Austria, but there are also attempts to cultivate it effectively beyond Europe, in South Africa, Australia, Chile, California and beyond.