Viognier is an aromatic white grape variety that most commonly grows in France’s Rhone Valley. In the upper end of the region, it is grown in vineyards nestled in the steep hillsides along the river. Although Viognier wines can be made light and fresh, they are commonly produced as fuller styles with intense floral and perfume notes. The grape generally produces small yields and requires a long growing season to develop its unique aromas and flavors.
Viognier is a dry, low-acid, high-alcohol grape. With the right exposure to sun, the grapes are able to accumulate the sugar and flavor complexities required to produce medium-full bodied white wines. Its base profile boasts hints of green fruit like apples and pears, as well as riper stone fruits such as peaches, apricots and nectarines. Viognier also has intense aromatic notes to echo the scents of jasmine and other white flowers. Oaked expressions further develop flavors of vanilla and sweet spice.
The most esteemed expression of Viognier comes from France’s Condrieu appellation and is called by its regional name, “Condrieu.” Here, the grape is grown on some of the Northern Rhone’s steepest slopes and is produced as a single varietal. Due to optimal elevation and aspect (the direction in which the slopes face), the vineyards experience high exposure to sunshine and the grapes ripen to full-body levels. Sometimes Condrieu is aged in oak, where vanilla and other sweet spices add to its complexity. However, many wine-makers opt to bypass oak influences in order to protect the grape’s fresh and floral aromas.
Think cream, cheese and butter. Viognier pairs well with seafood dishes such as lobster, crab, shrimp and an array of other buttery fresh fish entrees. It also goes exceptionally well with fatty pasta dishes like buttered noodles and rich Alfredo sauces. In addition, it compliments meats and vegetables cooked in hearty gravy, as well as comfort foods like casseroles and chicken pot pies. It is often paired with soft, decadent cheeses.
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