Wine Study – Viognier

This wine study is about a wine that is becoming quite popular and more familiar to us. It is….Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay). The grape emerged in southern France around the mid-1960s, and is the only variety of grape allowed in the Condrieu appellation in the Rhône Valley. Any bottle originating from Condrieu is totally Viognier. Outside of the Rhône but within Europe, you can find Viognier in some areas of Italy and Spain. Throughout the New World you can find Viognier being grown in the USA, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Since the 1990s it is the rapid increase in Viognier plantings in California and Australia that has helped emerge the wine onto the world stage. In addition to California, only a handful of USA states are planting Viognier, and luckily for us, Colorado is one of them! In fact, Viognier is one of the top white wine grapes being grown here.

Viognier is usually produced dry, is generally medium-bodied, and can range from low to high acidity depending on where the grape is grown. It is usually high in alcohol (above 13%) and is consumed young…within 2-4 years of vintage. The wine typically has medium-intensity aromas of peach, pear, minerality, and floral characteristics. On the palate these same characteristics hold true, as well as notes of honeysuckle and overripe apricot. It is the terroir that really affects Viognier’s features, as the grape requires a long, warm growing season but not a climate that is too hot.

I sampled 5 Viogniers for this wine study. One from Colorado’s Book Cliff Vineyards (Please note: many other Colorado wineries produce exceptional Viogniers, but I happened to be near the winery to purchase a bottle, so used them in my study. Additionally, they use Colorado grown grapes for their Viogniers and I wanted to ensure I was sampling CO grapes for my comparisons), one from California, Chile, Australia, and France.

Here are my results….All the wines were above 13% alcohol with a vintage year of 2014 (with the exception of CA, it was 2012). All were light straw in color. On the nose all were medium in intensity with aromas of primarily pear and floral. Some wines also had notes of honeysuckle, peach, and mineral. On the palate most had low to medium levels of acidity, with the exception of the Chilean wine, which was quite crisp. The general tastes were pear, peach, honeysuckle, floral, ripe apricot, and mineral.

In the blind tasting it was Colorado that received first place! I must say I was extremely excited by this, and proves that Colorado produces great wine and can compete against other wine regions!! Second place went to Chile, third to California, fourth to Australia, and last to France.

I hope you will purchase a few bottles of Viognier to try this new and different white wine and conduct your own wine study. And, the next time you are visiting a Colorado winery….ask to try their Viognier, I think you will be glad you did!!

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