When wine critic Jancis Robinson published her book Vines, Grapes & Wines in 1986, she was only able to identify 32 hectares of Viognier around the world. Most were planted in the Rhône Valley, whose grapes were destined to create wines under one of the two Viognier appellations that exist: Condrieu. Soon these would extend south to Chateau Grillet, in France.
Since then, things have changed quite a bit. In 2016, at least 16,000 hectares of vineyards of this fragrant white variety were identified around the world, especially in Europe, the United States and Australia. Although its presence in New World countries such as South Africa, New Zealand and Chile continues to increase. It is in places with a hot climate that Viognier, a low-yielding plant, very difficult to grow and capable of resisting drought, expresses its greatest potential with a sweeter profile. While in cooler climates the wines are drier. This is why the time of harvest is crucial.
What does Viognier taste like?
Generally, Viognier offers white wines with floral aromas, great volume on the palate and relatively low acidity. Its style will depend on the producers, who usually choose between a fresher style or a creamier one. This is how its flavours can vary from fruits such as tangerine, apricots, ripe peach, melon or mango, to subtle notes of honey, roses and spices such as vanilla. Always, by the way, offering wines with a lot of personality, voluptuous and well structured. When aged in barrels, the wine develops spiced aromas and a mouthfeel reminiscent of Chardonnay. But when not, its freshness could even resemble of a Sauvignon Blanc.
With an unmistakable yellow colour and golden highlights, this wine is also characterized by its oily sensation in the palate.
What foods to pair it with?
When it comes to choosing a food pairing, the challenge is not to overshadow its delicate floral aromas or its acidity. That said, if paired in a complementary way, dishes with ingredients like peaches or apricots are ideal. Imagine some Cheese with apricot jam, a Salad of peaches with peas and pecorino cheese, or a Moroccan Tajine of chicken with apricots, sliced almonds and dates served with cous cous.
If you want to play at pairing by contrast, dishes with a touch of spiciness such as a Green Thai Curry of shrimp with rice or Grilled meats work very well.
If you want to taste it, be sure to try Casillero del Diablo Viognier. Its vineyards located in the Casablanca Valley give life to a medium-bodied wine whose fruity expression stands out for its freshness, with notes of apricot, chirimoya, hints of vanilla and some toast aromas. Ideal to celebrate International Viognier Day this coming April 29th. Do not forget to serve it cold, between 10 and 12 degrees C.