The story of Viognier is quiet extraordinary. Fifty years ago Viognier was on the verge of extinction. A mere eight acres of Viognier vines existed, producing just 900 litres of wine per season. Even as recently as 1995 there was only 200 hectares planted in Condrieu, on the north bank of the Rhone Valley, and little anywhere else in the world. This was probably due to the difficulty in growing the grape - it’s prone to disease and produces low and unpredictable yields - while harvesting at the right time is crucial. Pick too early or too late and you miss out on getting the kind of wine which has lead to the rise in this variety's popularity.
The best results are achieved from older vines, especially vines more than 15 years old. Those in Condrieu are more than 70 years old but these days fine examples of Viognier wine is produced in Mendoza in Argentina, the Colchagua Valley in Chile and Australia - especially Yalumba - as well as in its spiritual home in Condrieu. As its popularity has grown vines have been planted further south in the Languedoc and other areas of France.
Viognier has finally claimed its place at the table of wine lovers worldwide, famous for its heady perfume and body, a dizzying combination of fruit and flowers. Descriptions of Viognier include apricots, honeysuckle, May blossom and ripe peaches. Producing a relatively high alcohol content (12.5 per cent and higher) and low acidity, it sits nicely between Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer, with which it shares the reputation for possessing a very distinctive nose. Like Gewurztraminer, Viognier wines can be paired with spicy food from South East Asia such as Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine.
Condrieu 2007 Septentrionales Nothern Rhone France
13%, Rhone, and Cork closure£29.99 More info
Casa Silva Viognier Reserva 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Colchagua Valley, 2011, and 14%ABV£10.49 More info