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The Viognier Grape

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About Viognier

(Synonyms: Barbin, Bergeron, Galopine, Greffou, Petiti Vionnier, Picotin Blanc, Rebolot, Viogne, Vionnier, Vugava bijela)


Viognier grapes Map showing the Rhone region of France

Viognier is a white-wine grape whose originas are unclear; best current guesses are that it came from what is today Croatia, but for almost two thousand years now, it has been a grape of the Rhône Valley in France. It is today generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class white-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list to the left of the page).

Viognier, like many another varietal, is a "rescue" of recent times. Once regionally popular, by a quarter-century ago its plantings had dwindled severely, to the point where it might have been considered at risk of extinction (c. 30 acres total). But a revival of interest has catapaulted the grape into international prominence in modern times.

At least one eminent wine expert has stated that modern Viognier plantings are of two clones, with rather markedly differing characteristics: an "Old World" clone, dominating plantings in Viognier's home, the Condrieu appellation of France, and a "New World" clone found outside France but also in the Languedoc region of France. Besides French plantings, there are also now extensive vineyards of Viognier in the usual-suspect New World wine regions, the U.S. (notably in the Pacific Northwest and in Virginia), Oceania (Australia & New Zealand), South America (Chile & Argentina), and South Africa.

The foremost characteristic of Viognier wines is a powerfully floral nose, suggestive of Riesling or Muscat, but even more floral (if less "spicy"), thoroughly lush. These qualities manifest strongly when the wines are young, but as a generality do not last well in the bottle, with three years from vintage date often being cited as the limit for reliable drinking. It is not, however, that the wines become "bad" when aged; rather, it is that they lose the floral quality and evolve into crisp but, as some put it, "flat" wines. But, since the pungent florality is the distinguishing and wanted quality, drinking them young is advisable. French Viognier-based wines are typically drunk shortly after release; New World wines can be so handled, but are a bit more inclined to at least tolerate some mild age.

Factoid: DNA analysis has shown Viognier to be closely related to the Italian Freisa grape, and more distantly to the eminent red-wine grape Nebbiolo.

Some Descriptions of Viognier Wines

  • Wikipedia

    "Viognier wines are well known for their floral aromas, due to terpenes, which are also found in Muscat and Riesling wines. There are also many other powerful flower and fruit aromas which can be perceived in these wines depending on where they were grown, the weather conditions and how old the vines were. Although some of these wines, especially those from old vines and the late-harvest wines, are suitable for aging, most are intended to be consumed young. Viogniers more than three years old tend to lose many of the floral aromas that make this wine unique. Aging these wines will often yield a very crisp drinking wine which is almost completely flat in the nose. The color and the aroma of the wine suggest a sweet wine but Viognier wines are predominantly dry . . . It is a grape with low acidity; it is sometimes used to soften wines made predominantly with the red Syrah grape. In addition to its softening qualities the grape also adds a stabilizing agent and enhanced perfume to the red wine."

  • Wine Searcher

    "Viognier is an aromatic grape variety known for producing textural white wines with strong stone-fruit flavors. On the nose Viognier wines can be very floral, showing lavender and pollen aromas that are quite honeyed in sweeter examples. Apricots are the variety’s classic flavor association, often with a richness that can be interpreted as ripe peach. . . Viognier grapes have naturally low acidity and require a great deal of sunshine to ripen properly. Too much heat and they yield overblown, hotly alcoholic wine that lacks the fresh, steely, apricot zing that is part of the variety's appeal."

  • Enjoying Viognier (an entire web site dedicated to Viognier)

    "[Viognier] needs to be picked when fully ripe. If it is picked too early it fails to develop its classic aromas and rich tastes. But despite, or perhaps because of, this precariousness it has the most amazing clear, golden colour and the aroma of flowers and fruits at their freshest. Many talk of being surprised by the taste; the colour and nose hinting at something sweeter but the actually taste being dry with a variety of nuances both on the tongue and afterwards. . . The significant differences in taste between the Condrieu/Château-Grillet wines and those of the rest of France and the World have been put down to a number of factors. Two of the most prevalent are the soil and the strain of vine. The soils of the Northern Rhône have a light sandy topsoil over granite while many of the other growing areas are more loamy to clay-like. There is also some suggestion that a mutant strain of the vine has appeared recently which now characterises most recent plantings and which results in grapes producing wine with less concentration. .  Although low-acidity Viogniers do not require the heavy oaking to provide balance, some sensitive use of oak barrels can enhance the overall flavour. "

  • Professional Friends of Wine

    "Like many other varietals, viognier must be harvested at its peak of maturity in order to display its unique aroma and flavor character. The grape's tendency to develop high sugar but low acid can result in wines with neutral, merely vinous flavors and high alcohol. .  Probably the main attraction of Viognier is its potentially powerful, rich, and complex aroma that often seems like overripe apricots mixed with orange blossoms or acacia. With as distinctive and sweet an aroma-flavor profile as Gewürztraminer, Viognier is nevertheless usually made in a dry style and seems to appeal more to the typical Chardonnay drinker. The distinctive Viognier perfume holds up even when blended with a large portion of other grapes. The fruit usually has very deep color, but is somewhat low in acidity. . . Viognier alcohol easily gets out-of-hand, so some vintners leave a touch of residual sugar to mask the heat. The combination of heady aromas and sweet-hot flavors may be overbearing to some palates. Even for those who favor Viognier's brash personality, a little can go a long way and a single glass may satiate one's wine thirst. . . Because the prime appeal of Viognier is its fresh and striking aroma, it is a wine that should be consumed young in most instances. The exception is Château Grillet, where the grapes are harvested early and the wine kept in oak for several months prior to bottling; this wine has a reputation for aging up to two decades."

  • Total Wine

    "Viognier is capable of producing extraordinary wines with peachy aromas. On the palate, there are dry, luscious flavors of tree fruit, nuttiness and undertones of spice. At its best, it is lush and rich with amazing complexity. . . Aromas: Floral, Peach, Apricots, Apple. Flavors: Peach, Apricot, Apple, Nutty. Styles: Dry and medium-bodied with loads of fruit flavors."

  • A Good Time With Wine

    "Typical markers, or notes, of viognier include white floral such as honey-suckle or jasmine, as well as orange blossom. Along with a honey or honey-suckle notes, you’ll also find stone fruit flavors, peach, apricot, nectarine, as well as a nice spice component that can be described as baking spices. On the palate, you will find it to be typically fuller bodied, often with an oily or “lanolin” feel in your mouth."

  • Wines of Chile

    "This lush white from the French Rhone Valley is Syrah’s sister grape and one of the few white grapes that grows well in warmer climates. Its wines are rich and aromatic with pronounced notes of apricot and peach, often coupled with floral notes of orange blossom and honey."

  • Tablas Creek Vineyard

    "Viognier's powerful aromas of peaches, apricots, and violets make it one of the world's most recognizable grape varieties. In the mouth, it shows great richness, flavors of stone fruit and honey, and a long finish. It is typically best drunk young."

  • Wine Geeks

    "[T]he wines it produces have a rich golden color even when young. Viognier is noted for making wine with a very perfumed aroma that can be compared to roasted pineapple, peach syrup, flowers or even fennel. The wines tend to be viscous and rich, with low levels of acidity. The better examples can be quite fascinating but if over production is a problem it can easily slip from big to oily and flabby."

  • wine.com

    "The Viognier grape attacks your nose with notes of peach, apricot and other tropical fruits. Aromatic to say the least, this varietal is tough to grow, due to the narrow window of time when the aromatics and acids are at their peak. The best wines made from Viognier have a good balance of aromatic fruits and acid. The intensity of the fruit may be detected by tastebuds as sweet, although most Viogniers are dry. Not the best partner for a light meal, wine from this grape is nice with heavier sauces or rich shellfish."

Some Viogniers to Try

(About this list.)

Viognier from its original home in France is absurdly expensive; more reasonable Viognier can be had from the Languedoc, but one has to pick and choose with care, and we had to put a lot of time into finding some apparently decent representatives from France at a plausible price point.

"Other cheap Viogniers, especially but not exclusively Vins de Pays d'Oc, have such strangely cosmetic aromas, more reminiscent of air freshener than anything that grows in the ground, that I have been tempted to think that an artificial flavouring has been used." — Jancis Robinson

We also sought out recommended Viogniers from the key New World regions, and have included a leading Australian, a couple of Californians, and one each from Washington State, Texas, and Virginia (all places with strong and still-developing Viognier production).

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Gérard Bertrand Viognier Spécial Réserve, $10 - $19.
    (France, Vin Pays d'Oc)
         ($15.24 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Ripe and rich without being overdone, this is a well-balanced Viognier with stone fruit and Anjou pear flavors lifted by accents of peony and orange rind. Vibrant acidity keeps things lively in the mouth, with a refreshingly crisp finish. 86 points

    This is fresh, bold, and bright, a killer every which way, and about as stylish as this lot gets. If you want to go to Viognier Valhalla (Condrieu, France) go ahead, but be prepared to drop an extra Mackenzie King bill, and this class-act wine might still kick its butt.

    Viognier is good, it’s got intensity, floral presence, peachy/apricoty things, and fragrance in spades. . . This week, I’m recommending a relatively quiet Viognier . . . softish, peachy but still crisp. It’s from Languedoc where they are really jumping on the Viognier wagon. The patio will soon be open, fingers crossed, and this wine would be great with what you’d munch under the umbrella, talking politics, or re-hashing the current season of Hell’s Kitchen.

    Honey, floral, candied ginger, spicy, apricot skin, nectarine and matchstick aromas. Fresh, rich, round, dry palate with soft acidity. Very floral, spicy, honey, lees, slate, apricot, ginger and anise flavours. A bit flat but good intensity and length, should improve over the next year.

    A toasty streak frames the overall character of this wine, resulting in aromas and flavors of wood-grilled peaches and lightly roasted walnut shells. The texture is round and fleshy, but a sweet spice and orange-oil lift help to keep the palate fresh and balanced. 86 points

    [R]ounded, lightly apricot and honey nose and brace of acid.

    This wine was "Commended" in the Wine Spectator awards as "a textbook viognier". The nose is appealingly floral, with honeysuckle, cherry and apple notes that carry through to the palate. Viognier is a fascinating grape, the logical successor to Sauvignon Blanc and quite frankly there are many in the wine industry who think it’s time we all moved on. Me included.

    [T]he Viognier was incredible, fresh and perfumed with peach/apricot, and very very light ... almost dainty.

    Floral, slightly acidic, well rounded and deliciously moreish.

  • Michel Gassier Viognier Les Piliers, $14 - $15.
    (France, Vin de Pays d'Oc)

    Some quotations and facts:

    But the bottlings I have been so far impressed about are from his Les Piliers vineyard. I have had both his 2004 Syrah and 2008 Viognier and they blew me away. .  The [Viognier] is pale yellow with hints of gold. Its nose its absolutely lovely and aromatic with notes of apricot, spice, vanilla, and fresh flowers. In the mouth the wine has a nice creamy feel with flavours of apricot and peach. This is all underscored by a great mineral note and refreshing acidity that I would not normally associate with Viognier. The wine finishes dry and refreshing with a lovely herbaceousness. With air the wine evolves which is typical of Gassier's style. After a couple of hours the nose turned into what could only be described as a fresh spring garden with perceptible notes of mint, thyme and other herbs along with a fresh floral component. It actually became more Provencial as time went on and really displayed its origins in the South of France. The only criticism I could make is that the wine still retained quite a bit of alcoholic heat, but this dissipated with air. High quality, honest and tasty stuff with a great nose. Very Good+

    This Viognier has a yellow-gold color and perfumed aromas of stone fruit. On the palate it offers very ripe flavors of golden apple and lemon custard. It has a creamy mouth feel and a dry finish. 89 points

    ♣ Wine Spectator (April 28, 2011), 88 points

    Attractive and fragrant aromas of yellow peach, honeysuckle and white grape juice lead, while the citrus-driven palate ends crisp and lifted. Medium weight, with balanced acidity and a tangy finish. 86 points

    Spicy, ginger/turmeric, honey, mineral, perfume / apricot and citrus aromas but a bit closed and young. Ripe, round, soft and dry but fresh with mineral, ginger, apricot skin, floral, citrus rind, honey flavours. Quite dry and crisp on the finish, needs 1-2 years. 87 points

    Dark yellow-light gold in the glass. Floral, honeyed, peach, apricots, orange on the nose. Good acidity, floral, a marmalade mixture of apricots, grapefruit, orange, lime, light citrus rind, very spicy, peppery, quite rich and intense, oily in the mouth but with enough of an acidic edge to also be clean and refreshing. Tangy citrus rind on the finish. A very impressive wine.

    [It] s full-bodied and dry with notes of apricot, limestone, white flowers, and lanolin. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

    This week’s wine is a fantastic example of what a well made Viognier can be. The 2007 Michel Gassier Les Piliers Viognier is a beautifully perfumed wine with strong flavours of dried apricots, peach, candied fruits and cantaloupe. . . At $18.95, the Michel Gassier Les Piliers is a top notch wine for a great value. I recommend you go and try it.

  • Laurent Miquel Viognier Verité, $19 - $25.
         ($18.74 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Laurent Miquel makes some of the best Viogniers, not just in France but in the world. This judiciously-oaked wine wouldn't look out of place in Condrieu, such is its fidelity to this supremely aromatic grape. Classy vanilla oak, fresh acidity and flavours of cream and stone fruits are beautifully intertwined here.

    The best Viognier possible. All fermented in oak, with some demi-muids as well as barriques, and with a selection of juice as well as plots. Rounded, textured, peachy, integrated oak and more depth of flavour.

    ♣ Languedoc Roussillon Sud de France Top-100 Competition (2010), Best Pays d'Oc White trophy

    Jancis Robinson "best buys for the holidays - dry whites": A southern French, barrel fermented attempt at the depth of a Condrieu – fair value.

    Produced from selected barrels of Viognier, Laurent Miquel considers this his premium white wine. It does seem to have all the exotic apricot and peach flavors of the grape, although a little less wood would have allowed them to be more expressive. But it’s still a fine, full, but still elegant wine. 89 points

    I find the wine to be full flavoured, apricots and floral, mouth-filling and long lasting in the mouth. Jaime Goode [aka "The Wine Anorak"] of the Sunday Express agrees: "One of the southern France’s rising stars, this wine is not like anything you’ll have tasted before. In the mouth it has a rich texture with intense peach and vanilla flavours that justify the high price tag."

    Struck match and apricot aromas. Creamy, creme fraiche palate. Nutty and peachy. Textured but not blowsy.

    Alive with juicy grapefruit and lively acidity; long and balanced, aromatic and fresh. 90 points

    I also very much enjoyed a Vacherin [cheese] recently with Laurent Miquel's Verité, a top quality viognier from the Languedoc.

  • Yalumba "Eden Valley" Viognier, $10 - $20.
    (Australia; this is not their entry-level "Y Series" bottling, nor their more expensive "Virgilius".)
         ($17.44 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    The Eden Valley Viognier is sourced from 3 different vineyards and in terms of quality sits in between Yalumba’s Y series and their Virgilius. Compared to the Y series, the Eden Valley Viognier is sourced from better vineyard parcels and fermented in oak barrels (while the Y series only sees stainless steel). In my opinion, it is well worth the few extra dollars. The Virgilius is renowned for being one of the New World’s best examples of Viognier, so this winery has clearly shown they know how to handle this difficult-to-grow grape variety. We tasted this one tonight and were yet again impressed by its weight and complexity. It’s got ripe fruit (apricot and melon), floral notes, lots of spice (cloves), and some almost bitter notes on the finish. It’s has a buttery texture which explains its weight, but enough acidity to keep it standing. So overall, it’s complex and intense, but still very well balanced. A bit over the $20 mark, but quite extraordinary.

    [A] long ripening period thanks to elevation and pronounced diurnal temperature variation results in a great value Viognier with good typicity, length and balance. And the winemaking respects this balance, with a 50:50 stainless steel and barrel ferment and ageing in large old barrels. A great vintage [2007] for Eden Valley white rachets up the lifted, exotic factor – a musky, blossom nose which notes follow through on the creamy fruit salad palate together with a hint of fennel. Lovely mouthfeel, long and complete. Very good.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (July/August 2010), 89 points

    "Bright, greenish gold. High-pitched aromas of lime, orange peel, pear and dusty minerals. Seductively fragrant but less exotic than most New World viogniers, offering spicy citrus fruit flavors and a subtle floral quality. Dry and firm on the finish, leaving behind spice and lime notes.

    (This is a long-ish page with extensive quotations from four different reviewers about the wine; click the green diamond to see it.)

    Get it right, though, and it tastes like these – lucid, rounded like poached apricots, with a fresh twang like green mangos and Thai basil and just a touch of clean fire, I’m thinking radish shoots and ginger: a real uplift of a white. . . More peaches and nectarines and a greater degree of lusciousness.

    Extra spicy, with more pepper and flower stem character than fruit. Yet this holds together, with the pear flavors coming through on the finish.

    If You're Looking for Complex... Trying two different bottles of the Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier ($16) within a week was an interesting experiment. Although the 2009 was interesting and quite tasty, I have to admit, that many tasters initially found the smell off-putting. I've heard the phrase "cat piss" thrown around a lot in the wine world with reference to Sauvignon Blanc, which didn't really make sense to me, but most of us agreed this was a pretty accurate description of the scent on this one. But once we tasted it, the wine had a creamy richness and a nice earthy bitterness on the finish that kept us going for more. If you like Scotch, you may want to give this wine a whirl, as the unique, almost-peaty flavors could be right up your alley. Just one year younger, the 2010 Yalumba Eden Valley is a very versatile wine that could match up well with anything as fancy as a chicken-topped salad to as low key as a bag of salty potato chips (my pairing of choice). The scent was citrusy-sweet, and flavors followed through, hinting at Meyer lemon and nectarine, along with bready, biscuity flavors that probably resulted from the 10 months this wine spent on the lees.

    Impressive stuff from Yalumba who have pioneered this variety in Australia. They also do an excellent cheaper Viognier in their Y series which is almost as good. But this version, from their home in the Eden Valley, is quite serious. A really good expression of this variety. 13.5% alcohol. Complex nose of peach, pear, nectarine, coconut and vanilla. The palate is beautifully textured with pear and melon fruit complemented by spice and lychee notes. Rich textured yet dry with real intensity of flavour and lovely fruit expression. 91/100

    Pale gold with bouquet of strange but sweet fruit. Slight white melon aromas but the rest is a bit odd; not unpleasant, I just can't relate it to anything I am familiar with. Palate--Vibrant acidity highlights the foundation of a pungent and interesting fruity presence. It is crisp but I find it awkward if only because it is unusual to me. I just don't really know quite what to do with this wine. The good folks at the Wine Spectator gave this a 91 point rating calling it spicy pear and pineapple. I'm not getting the nomenclature or the rating. But this is not to say I don't like this wine. It is just unlike anything I have had which is saying something considering I have been studying wine since the mid 70's. . . So, I'll defer to the expertise of the Wine Spectator and say, raise a glass!

  • Melville Estate Verna's Viognier, $15 - $30.
    (California, Santa Barbara)

    Some quotations and facts:

    A very clear, medium gold straw color in the glass. A very big, intense and layered nose jumped out of the glass with peach, apricot, orange blossom, floral elements (jasmine?), a Sauternes like honeyed tea and just touch of spice. In the mouth it was complex and well structured with more peach, apricot, some minerality, a touch of tropical citrus and honey but not overwhelmingly sweet. Well balanced, medium bodied and complex; it has a very lively acidity that balances out all that fruit and flavor very nicely. The 15.5% alcohol is very well masked behind the wall of flavor, texture and acidity and the finish is fairly long. This is really incredible for the price and an excellent example of Viognier. I would bet that, if tasted blind, this could be mistaken to be a Rhone Viognier. Really, really good juice! 50+5+13+17+7=92

    Light yellow. Fresh lemon and peach aromas are complemented by notes of violet, white pepper and beeswax. Pliant, gently creamy citrus and pit flavors are enlivened by tangy minerality, which adds lift and nervy cut. A hint of succulent herbs comes up on the sharply focused, spicy finish, which lingers on. Quite racy for the variety, especially for a New World version.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (August 2013), 90 points

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (December 2013), 91 points

    A beautifully done Viognier that has both richness and freshness, the 2012 Viognier Estate Verna's, which had no malolactic fermentation and spent three months in neutral barrel, offers up classic white peach, white flower, apricots and hints of honey blossom as well as medium-bodied, textured palate and a clean, focused finish. . . Winemaker Greg Brewer and grower Chad Melville continue to knock it out of the park with these Melville releases. Focusing on site, if not plot, specific releases, neutral oak, no SO2 until racking and varying degrees of whole cluster are the norm here. The wines have individual characters and, stylistically, lean toward the more complex, finesse-driven side of the spectrum. They "wow" more for their balance and nuance than their power and richness. They also remain reasonably priced!

    Robert Parker stated this might be the finest example of the Viognier from California he has tasted. The points didn’t matter, but with that endorsement I set out to see what I could find. . . Pale straw in color. Vibrant and floral aromatics of orange blossom, white flower, honey and a hint of sea foam. On the palate, extremely rich, focused, powerful, exotic and profound. Apricot, nectarine, melon rind, pineapple, guava, nut and tangerine. Creamy with a big dose of minerality and acidity that combine with the fruit to hold you hostage for a 30-45 second plus finish. Reading the label, I was concerned about the alcohol, but it didn’t show the expected heat; however, it was extremely rich and might overpower many food choices. . . This wine is definitely worth seeking out and a good value at about $20 a bottle. Recommended.

    This is a very impressive California Viognier, as many other efforts are often over ripe and alcoholic. The Melville is full, ripe and rich, and it covers the alcohol very well. Finding a Viognier outside of France with this much minerality is a rare treat, and at this price, I simply think you cannot beat the 2007 Melville. Tastes/Smells: Floral, honeydew, mango, dried white peach, raw honeycomb, wet stones, minerality, mandarin orange. Body: Full. Tannin: None. Acid: Medium. Sugar: None. Length: Long.

    Although this wine is dry, it’s satisfyingly rich with honeysuckle, apricot, orange, mango and peach flavors. Made without malolactic fermentation, its citrusy acidity heightens and brightens the fruit, giving it a clean mouthfeel and finish. This [2012] is the winery’s best Viognier in years.

    [It] shows seductive aromas and flavors of peach and pear, with lively spice and floral notes adding complexity. With its strong nerve, this textbook viognier has the power and elegance to work with a wide range of foods.

  • Freemark Abbey Viognier, $17 - $27.

    Some quotations and facts:

    "A brilliant Viognier that preserves the variety’s exotic richness, while framing it with balance and subtlety, no easy task. Impresses for its array of pineapple crême brulée, Key lime pie, golden mango and green apple opulence, yet is crisp and zesty in acidity, and there’s a bracing minerality. The grapes come from an unusual combination of Rutherford, which provides ripeness, and Carneros, which brings acidity and freshness. 93 points, Editor's Choice

    A relatively pale lemon colour in the glass, this 2011 iteration of Freemark Abbey’s Napa Valley Viognier is anything but indistinct on the nose. Lush aromas of ripe white peaches combine with freshly picked pears and hint of almond to offer a luxurious and open bouquet. A lack of malolactic fermentation has kept the fruit notes of this Freemark Abbey Viognier really clearly defined, but the Viognier grape’s natural tendency to overt expression and a hint of oak lend a richness of aroma. Medium to full bodied and gorgeously buttery on the palate, this Freemark Abbey Viognier is long, opulent and complex. The white peach and pear fruit notes carried over from the nose form the basis of this wine, with hints of lemon grass, cinnamon and almond adding depth. There is a lean mineral streak lent to this Freemark Abbey Viognier by the lack of malolactic fermentation and a good level of retained acidity, that prevents this richness of texture from becoming overwhelming and that cleanses the excellent finish as it slowly fades. Score: 90/100 – Opulent, complex and aromatically utterly beguiling, this 2011 Freemark Abbey Viognier is a very accomplished wine indeed.

    High marks also go to Freemark Abbey’s recent Viognier bottlings. The grape can easily become too ripe and the resulting wines alcoholic and flabby; [the winemaker] obviously harvests at just the right time, producing a wine with the honeysuckle perfume and depth one expects from Viognier, yet a flash of acidity keeps the wine clean and refreshing on the finish.

    The winery’s 2012 Viognier is a crisp, full-bodied wine. Its heady tropical fruit and floral aromas entice upon entry. Citrus and stone fruit flavors in the mouth culminate in a clean, dry finish.

    This is a white wine for red wine drinkers. . . It has the style any high-end Viognier should have . . . Rating: Excellent (92)

    There's a tangy fragrance to this white from California's Napa Valley. The flavor offers crisp pear and green apple flavors balanced by a slight buttery quality.

    This almost clear colored Viognier from Napa opens with mild peach like bouquet with a hint of banana. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, slightly acidic and chewy. The flavor profile is a mineral infused pear with notes of gentle peach. We also detected hints of white pepper, honey and banana. The finish is dry and tingly acidity lingers.

    For a price point of $20, this 2010 Viognier is delicious! Drink as an aperitif before guests arrive; or pair up the hints of lemon with a grapefruit salad, moving you right into an Asian-inspired dish. There are floral traces of blossom in this Napa Valley bouquet, enhanced by clove from the French-oak barrel. Heavy brix here and an alcohol content of 14.6%.

  • Stevens Winery Divio Viognier, $17 - $25.
    (Washington State)

    Some quotations and facts:

    This stylish Viognier is sourced from the Dineen vineyard. A cool site in a cool vintage yields a carefully made wine with gin-like spices and penetration. Lemon, lime and raw steel give it grip and length. Fine winemaking shows the strengths of a difficult vintage. 91 points

    Divio is the code winemaker Tim Stevens stamps on the barrels of this wine. It is short for Dineen Vineyard Viognier. It translates to a food friendly balanced wine. So much Washington Viognier is overripe and flabby. Stevens coaxes the usual Viognier qualities of perfumed white flowers, tropical fruit such as guava and stone fruits like apricots and peaches. A whiff of orange zest is reminiscent of Viognier from Condrieu in the Rhone where the grape is best grown. The kicker in the Stevens Winery Viognier is its racy and lip-smacking acidity of lemon and limes. The unusually cool 2010 vintage captured acidity with lower sugars and ripeness.

    ♣ Wine Spectator: December 31, 2012, 91 points; August 31, 2010, 90 points; October 31, 2009, 90 points June 30, 2008, 90 points.

    The 2010 growing season was one of the coolest on record and brought lower sugars and firmer acids that really make their wine "pop" on the finish. It was aged in neutral French barrels and stainless steel, which added texture while still allowing the fruit to stand out. Classic Viognier characteristics like orange blossom, pear and tropical notes dominate this wine. Enjoy… You may even find yourself dancing, just like on the label.

    Nose of peach with a hint of orange marmalade. Flavors were nice and refreshing though I couldn't put my finger on any one flavor. Nice mouthfeel with balanced acidity. Would purchase again.

    His Dineen Vineyard Viognier (called Divio) is no slouch either; it shines for its vibrant tropical fruit elements: green melon, papaya, and ripe peaches. At the same time, it's quite dry on the palate. I urge you to seek out these wines. They're quite reasonable in price for their quality; the Viognier is retailing for as low as $17.99! Feel free to thank me later.

    A carefully made wine with gin-like spices and penetration. Lemon, lime and raw steel give it grip and length.

    A gorgeous nose lifts this [2008] bone-dry Viognier immediately from the glass. It’s nicely structured and plenty ripe at just 12.7% alcohol. The Dineen vineyard grapes bring a crystalline transparency, scents reminiscent of lemon tea, and penetrating streaks of lemon and lime. 92 points

  • Brennan Vineyards Viognier, $15 - $18.

    Some quotations and facts:

    This bottling is completely unoaked, and the green almond, white clover, and delicately spiced golden apple tones on the nose make that very clear. There is an excellently firm minerality, a soft tone of chestnut, and a green, leafy, water lily-like component on the spin. Overall, it’s very appealing. Smooth and delicate, the palate is ripe, with hints of white rose water, green almond, and a very soft note of cream. Melon and water lily, leaves, and some light honey tones combine with a mineral core of wet granite. The progression of this wine is its most interesting quality. It opens clean, becomes crisp and zippy with minerality, then oily, viscous, and almost creamy at the mid palate, finishing warm and satisfying. This is a very nice wine, and it’s easily… Worth Buying. 89 points.

    2010: Tropical fruit in the mouth. A hint of bitterness at the back of the mouth during the finish. This is not a flaw, and is a common phenomenon with Viognier (and Chardonnay). Maybe 'grip' would be a better description. 2011: Peach nose and flavors.

    Some sweetness on the nose. Same sweetness on the palate – but not balanced. Needs more acidity. Leaves burning feeling. Improved after a breathing time!!! Much better!

    Two wines caught my attention. One was a Viognier from Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, Texas. It offered a citrus and peach aroma and taste. The crisp finish was citrusy yielding to peaches.

    Their 2008 Viognier has lovely aromas of vanilla blended with citrus, and flavors that include mangos and apricots.

    Judging from what's often in the bottle, viognier is a challenging grape for winemakers. It is a highly aromatic variety, but it needs to be ripe for those peach, honeysuckle and apricot aromas to show. By the time the grape is ripe, the acidity is on the low side and the alcohol is on the high side. So thank goodness for those who get it right, like today's wine from Texas with those fruit-bowl aromas and flavors in full bloom. Yet it has enough acidity to keep it lively.

    Regarding the second-placed [at a large Viognier blind-tasting event] 2011 Brennan Vineyards, Hunter Hammett, sommelier of The Fairmont Hotel, Dallas gave some advice to the winemaker that it was "a bit thin to be excellent but a great example of this classic Rhône varietal". Simon Holguin, general manager at the forthcoming Kitchen LTO, said that it "finishes delicately".

    Brennan Vineyards Viognier has been recognized as world-class and this [2012] gem is no exception. This wine has great acidity with aromas of peaches and honeysuckle. The mouthfeel is perfectly balanced and extremely pleasant with a great finish lingering for a long time. Pair this with poultry, salmon and mild cheeses.

  • Horton Viognier
    Horton has two Viognier bottlings, their standard ($14 - $17) and a so-called "Tower Series" version ($17); the latter is said to be made for Total Wine only, but one can find it elsewhere. It is also said to be slightly "premium" over their standard version. Here, we have used quotations about both.

    Some quotations and facts:

    This is the sort of wine that might only be fully appreciated if tasted blind, since the modest price and Virginia origin might well prevent a sighted taster from taking it as seriously as it deserves on its merits. Horton Viognier isn’t this strong in all vintages, but it is this strong in years other than 2010, so we’re not talking about a one-hit wonder here. Its particular excellence consists in achieving soaring aromatics and vivid flavor without the alcoholic heat that routinely afflicts Viognier in California when made in this expressive style. The trick with this variety is that it doesn’t manifest its signature floral aromatics until it ripens fully, at which point (in California, at least) there’s so much sugar in the grapes that they can’t be fermented to dryness without delivering a punishing alcoholic wallop. By contrast, classic renditions of Viognier from Condrieu in France’s Rhône Valley are rarely hot with alcohol, but frequently they lack ripeness and expressiveness--despite costing three to 10 times as much as this wine. This should be a source of pride not only in Virginia, but for winemakers and wine lovers alike across the United States.

    This wine was delicious! . . The Horton Viognier was particularly delightful. It was creamy and smooth but had that buttery honeysuckle flavor. It’s easy to drink, especially with something salty and fishy (such as blue crabs).

    Horton Vineyards is now one of the largest in the state, and it produces what some have called the crown jewel of Virginia wines: a heady-scented, peach and vanilla-flavored white wine that writer Paul Lukacs describes as "a bright June morning in a glass". . . Lukacs, in his new book The Great Wines of America, numbers it among the country's 40 greatest oenological achievements -- the only one in Virginia and one of only three on the East Coast. . . "Dennis [Horton]'s 1993 Viognier is considered by many to be the finest Viognier ever produced in this country", said Bruce Zoecklein, Virginia's oenologist and past president of the American Society of Oenology and Viticulture.

    Brilliant light gold. Aromas of fresh ripe peach and pineapple; very riesling-like. Clean flavors, fruit-driven, vibrant and fresh. Good acid, fine clean finish. Excellent.

    I’ve been on a Viognier kick lately, especially from Virginia. When compared with California, Virginia Viognier seems to be right on target, both in quality and price. . . Virginia continues to produce beautiful, balanced Viogniers, and this Horton doesn’t disappoint. Coming in at $13, the wine clocks in at 13.8% alcohol. An aromatic wine with peach and floral notes, the wine is well balanced and structured. A wine to share with friends and family.

    I have always found Horton's Viognier to be well-made and consistent in both quality and style from vintage to vintage. The 2008 is made in a fresh, easy-drinking style with inviting floral, citrus and peach aromas. The Horton Vineyard’s Viognier 2008 is medium-bodied with good acidity and sips nicely on its own or would pair well with white meats or seafood dishes. The wine clocks in at a moderate 13.5% alcohol by volume and can be found anywhere from $13 to $20. If you are able to find this wine at the lower end of the price spectrum, snatch it up quick!

    [T]he 2009 Horton Viognier, finished a very close second with 100 points. It was also the favorite of two other sommeliers.

    Nose: The aroma of this wine is almost like that of a lumber yard. You smell lots of oak to the point where you can barley pick up any other scents. The underlying scents I did pick up, however, were those of pear and sweet apples but I might have just been getting desperate to smell something besides the oak and imagined them completely. Taste: Your initial sip of this wine will hit you with a strong sharpness on the palate right up front, and then, like the bouquet, the flavor is also dominated by oak. Fortunately, it’s not all you can taste. A slight hint of grapefruit and a melon flavor manage to break past the oak. Overall: Just don’t buy this wine, unless you happen to like your white wines oaked to a point where it has completely altered the wine. It’s just way too heavily oaked and this ruins what could have been an excellent wine. It’s so overpoweringly oaked, in fact, that even the color of the wine has changed to a deep yellow, making it appear more like apple juice than wine. Also, with other, better Viogniers on the market for around the same price, why waste your money on something that’s only commercially acceptable?

    [It] manages to be simultaneously rich and creamy, as well as light and lip-smacking, a very good trick. This is the kind of wine that works well as a sipper and with food too. Medium bright yellow in color, the nose is very creamy, with oaky spice, butter cream and subtle notes of peach and citrus. The barrel fermentation shows. It is not a fruity nose. Medium to full bodied, the Horton is a very plush and satiny mouthful. Yet, good acidity and a streak of salty mineral keep it from being heavy. Flavors of buttercream, oaky spice, peach, and subtle citrus notes remind me of a baked peach pie. The finish is very good, with lots of lip-smacking acidity and a lingering salty/fruity quality. The magic here is that you keep reaching for another glass, the sign of a well made wine.

    2010 Horton Viognier: Blended with 11% Petit Manseng, this expression of Viognier had a restrained floral nose and some ripe apple character on the palate.

    [T]the 2012 Viognier was extraordinary. It exhibits rich pineapple and a hint of citrus on the nose with the classic peach notes on the palate. I'm just in love with this varietal and many Virginia wineries do this one well, but the Horton is above average.

For a Splurge

For a Viognier splurge, one simply must have a Condrieu. While many Condrieu bottlings have prices approaching the three-digit range, there are some remarkably good ones in the affordable (for a splurge) range. One such is the Saint Cosme Condrieu, available for $60 plus or minus $20, depending on where you shop and—do not neglect to consider this—the vintage year. (One can get a six-year-old bottle for $40.)

Chateau Sainte Cosme (93) needs no introduction to fans of Rhone wines but this achingly perfect Viognoer might. Ripe pears, white peaches, honey, almonds…you name it, if it’s a Viognier attribute, it’s in this bottle. This is as near-perfect a Condrieu as I have ever found.
   — "The Pour Fool", Seattle PI

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