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Viognier Wine

Viognier, the grape variety that almost vanished from the face of the earth in the 1960s, has remarkably and resiliently bounced back to become a favourite for white wine aficionados who crave something beyond the usual suspects of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This once-endangered varietal now thrives, especially in the vineyards of France’s Rhône Valley, as well as in new world regions like Australia, South Africa, and California.

Originating from the Rhône, the history of Viognier is steeped in legend and mystery. It is said to have been brought to Gaul by the Romans or even earlier by the Greeks. Its decline in the 20th century left it clinging to existence in Northern Rhône, with as few as 14 hectares left by the 1960s. Thanks to the efforts of passionate winemakers, Viognier has seen a renaissance, not only reclaiming its former glory in its native soil but also gaining popularity across the globe.

The wine itself is a study in contrasts, often opulent with a full body, it somehow remains refreshingly crisp and not overly heavy. The aromatic profile is where Viognier truly sings, a heady mix of perfumes that range from the bloom of white flowers, like jasmine and honeysuckle, to the succulence of stone fruits such as peach and apricot, often accented with a delicate hint of spice. On the palate, these wines express their complexity with layers of fruit, floral notes, and a textural richness that can almost feel creamy.

Winemakers adore Viognier for its versatility. It can produce wines that are strikingly different depending on the region, the climate, and the wine-making techniques. In its home territory of Condrieu – the benchmark for all Viognier – the wines are often un-oaked, showing the purity of the fruit and the terroir. Elsewhere, some winemakers choose to ferment or age their Viognier in oak barrels, which can impart an extra dimension of vanilla, toast, and spice to the wine's flavour profile and can increase its ageing potential.

Viognier grapes are notoriously difficult to cultivate. The vines are prone to powdery mildew, they have naturally low and unpredictable yields, and the grapes must be picked at just the right moment of ripeness to achieve the desired balance of acidity and sugar. This labour of love, however, results in a wine that is truly special and often sought after by those looking for a white wine with presence and personality.

Pairing Viognier with food is a joy. Its bold flavours and floral aromatics stand up to spicy cuisines like Thai or Indian, while its fruitiness can complement lighter fare such as grilled fish or a summer salad. Its rich texture means it can even accompany dishes that are traditionally difficult for white wines, like roasted poultry or veal.

On the sustainability front, Viognier growers and producers are increasingly adopting organic and biodynamic practices, responding to the global demand for wines that are not only delicious but responsibly cultivated. These environmentally conscious methods enhance the natural characteristics of the Viognier grape, allowing the vineyards to express themselves more freely in the glass.

Viognier's complexity extends to its use in blends, where it can add aroma and body to wines. It is the only permitted white grape variety to be blended with the red Syrah in Côte-Rôtie, lending aromatic complexity and finesse to the resulting wines.

In the New World, Viognier's adaptability has been embraced with enthusiasm. Winemakers in regions like California's Central Coast, Australia's Barossa Valley, and South Africa's Cape have all harnessed the grape’s potential, each interpreting it with a local twist. The results are exciting and diverse, ranging from vibrant, zesty styles to more voluptuous, oak-aged versions.

The global journey of Viognier has also taken it to unexpected places like Brazil, Chile, and even Japan, proving that this is a grape that refuses to be confined to traditional boundaries. These emerging wine regions are producing Viognier, which adds to the rich tapestry of the variety's global profile, bringing new perspectives and tastes to the table.

While still far from being as ubiquitous as some of its white wine peers, Viognier has secured its place in the world of wine. Its remarkable comeback story is one of passion, perseverance, and the allure of its captivating aromas and flavours. For those seeking a white wine with depth, distinction, and a touch of the exotic, Viognier offers a glass brimming with character and a lineage that ties the ancient world to the modern. Its survival and resurgence are a testament to the enduring appeal of this noble grape, a reminder of the richness that diversity brings to the world of wine.

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