Viognier: The Heady Wine Makes a Comeback

Chardonnay abounds at every turn. Merlot is hip, as is Petit Syrah. We all know the other wines, too, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Chianti.

But what is a “viognier”?

The viognier (pronounced VEE-OH-NEE-AY) grape has been grown in France for several millenia, but in the mid-20th century, it was slowly dying out, as fewer and fewer wineries chose to make the wine.

The viognier wine is a white wine known for having a highly concentrated flavor, but that flavor comes only with much care. The grapevines tend to produce unpredictable amounts of grapes, and there is an extremely narrow window when the grapes can be picked. This labor-intensive process prompted the grape’s decline.

As exacting as the viognier grower must be, the wine’s increasing popularity in Europe spawned a resurgence in its growing. As the viognier wine became popular again, an increasing number of wineries re-established or expanded their viognier vineyards. By the early 1990s, the grapes were growing in other areas, too, particularly California and Australia.
Today, the wine is gaining popularity in the United States, particularly in California.

One of the reasons for its resurgence is its “go-with-anything” flavor, which easily handles traditional white wine dishes (such as fish or pork) as well as some unusual selections, including spicy barbecue and very salty dishes. Its ability to handle strong, salty, and even spicy foods makes it the perfect complement to a summertime barbecue picnic — or even the Thursday evening fast food meal during the week.

The wine is commonly described as having an apricot or spicy flavor. However, depending on the variety, it is also commonly described as “smoky” or “oak-flavored”.

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