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About Viognier - Learn More About This Rare Grape
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed January 26, 2004. For more information go to

Not very long ago, when wine lovers thought of Viognier "Vee-ohn-yay" - if we thought of it at all - it was as a painfully rare grape variety, seen only occasionally in the offbeat, and expensive, Northern Rhone appellations Condrieu and Chateau- Grillet. (Less obviously, Viognier is a minor player in the blend of Cote-Rotie, a robust red wine that adds complexity and "lifted" flavor from a smallish dose of this aromatic white.)

During the '90s, though, Viognier gained increasing attention, perhaps as an alternative to Chardonnay, first in California and other New World regions, and eventually going back to France, where it started turning up in larger quantities, much of it aimed for U.S. mass-market export.

At its best, Viognier shows characteristic peach and apricot aromas with distinct floral overtones, a fresh and aromatic quality that most experts agree shows at its best when the wine is young. You'll find few authorities who recommend cellaring Viognier.

We're taking a closer look at this increasingly popular variety as this month's featured topic in our Wine Tasting 101 program at I've selected two good and reasonably affordable examples as "benchmarks," but if you can't find them or would prefer to try another, please feel free to participate with any Viognier from any world region.


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