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What is Viognier?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Viognier is a very full-bodied, yet soft white wine grown throughout the world. Viognier is one of the aromatic wines, like wines such as Muscat or Riesling. Its flowery scent is one of its primary appeals, considered by some to be the best aroma in wine. Viognier is grown in the Rhone region of France, in the Condrieu appellation to the south of Lyons. It has recently been widely planted in the Languedoc in the south of France as well, but the Rhone Viognier is still the best known.

At one time, before the mid-19th century plague of phylloxera on vines throughout the world, Viognier was an incredibly popular wine. After this scourge destroyed most of the vines, however, Viognier became a nearly extinct grape, and was rarely seen in wines. In the early 1990s, renewed interest in the grape led to massive replanting throughout France, and its introduction to North America and Australia. It has continued to rise in popularity in a small sector of the wine community, and there are now a number of vineyards outside of France that specialize in producing high-quality Viognier.

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Like Riesling, Viognier has a very strong and sweet aroma. Also like Riesling, however, the wine itself tends to be quite dry. This study in contrasts between the sweet bouquet and dry body is one of the reasons many people find the wine so appealing. In the Rhone region, the wines produced using Viognier tend to have overlays of apricots and blossom, in addition to many other key notes of fruit and flowers.

Viognier is a white wine that should be drunk very young to get the most out of it. If left to sit for more than a handful of years, the wine will lose virtually all of its appealing aroma, leaving it rather dead to smell. Viognier is sometimes turned into a dessert wine by using the noble rot to help trap more sugar within the grapes on the vine. These dessert wines will age for an extended period of time, like most of this variety.

Normally, Viognier is unblended, producing wines that are made entirely from the Viognier grape. Sometimes, the grape is used as a minority grape in some red wines, such as those predominantly consisting of Syrah, to help take some of the acidic edge out of the wine.

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