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Viognier

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About Viognier Edit

Wikipedia Article About Viognier on Wikipedia

Once a fairly common, and then a very rare white wine grape grown almost exclusively in the northern Rhône regions of France, Viognier (pronounced vee-OH-nyay) has been planted much more extensively around the world since the early 1990s. Both California and Australia now have significant amounts of land devoted to the Viognier grape. There are also notable increases in planting in other states in the United States and in other countries.

In France, Viognier is the single permitted grape variety in the famous appellations of Condrieu and Château Grillet, which are located on the west bank of the Rhône River, about 40 km south of Lyon. The wines of Condrieu are the most famous Viogniers in the world, as their prices indicate.

The decline of Viognier in France from its historic peak has much to do with the disastrous introduction of Phylloxera insects from North America into Europe in the mid- and late-1800s, followed thereafter by the abandonment of the vineyards due to the chaos of World War I. By 1965, only about 30 acres (120,000 m²) of Viognier vines remained in France, and the variety was nearly extinct. Even as late as the mid-1980s, Viognier in France was endangered. Paralleling the growth of Viognier in the rest of the world, plantings in France have grown dramatically since then.

Viognier grapes can be difficult to grow. Its vines do not produce high yields compared to other grapes and the variety is not very resistant to disease. Some wine critics feel that the terroir (microclimate) of the regions of France where it traditionally is grown is essential to its best expression in wine. It should neither be picked too early nor too late if wine of the highest quality is to be made. The grape prefers warmer environments and a long growing season, but can grow in cooler areas as well. It is a grape with low acidity; it is sometimes used to soften wines made predominantly with the Syrah grape (Côte Rôtie from France or The Laughing Magpie from South Australia being two examples), and is blended with other white and red varieties, but it can make outstanding wines by itself. The color and the aroma of the wine suggest a sweet wine but Viognier wines are predominantly dry, although sweet late-harvest dessert wines have been made with this variety.

The best quality 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, with vines greater than twenty years old thought to be superior to younger vines. Although some of these wines, especially those from old vines and the late-harvest wines, are suitable for aging, most should be consumed young. Viogniers more than three years old tend to lose much of their floral aromas that make this wine unique. Keeping these wines too long will yield a very crisp drinking wine which is almost completely flat in the nose.

Viognier Recipes Edit

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