Viognier (vee-ohn-yay) is a little-known white wine grape that is slowly increasing in popularity. Its homeland is in the French appellation of Condrieu, located in the Northern Rhône where it is the only grape permitted. In 1965, only about about 20 acres of Viognier vines remained in France, and the variety was nearly extinct.

The decline of Viognier in its native land is do to the infestation of phylloxera in the mid-to-late1800s, followed by the abandonment of the vineyards due to World War I. Even as late as the mid-1980s, Viognier in France was endangered, but gradually the appellation recovered and the area planted now covers 300 acres.

In the United States, Viognier has been termed a cult wine. While only a small number of wineries dabbled in this most exotic of whites in the early ’90s, today Viognier is made by more than 20 wineries in California, with about 2000 acres devoted to the vine. It is the rapid increase in Viognier plantings in California and Australia that has helped to push the wine onto the world stage.
For those who haven’t experienced Viognier, the first glass is quite a revelation. These wines are well-known for their perfumey, floral aromas such as honeysuckle, rose, violet, citrus blossom, lychee nuts and ripe pears. The aromas tell you that the wine will be sweet, but your palate is surprised to encounter a dry wine that has a heavier mouth feel than most Chardonnays. Lush and viscous on the palate, the wine’s aftertaste is not at all sweet, but fresh and vibrant. As a grape with low acidity, Viognier is sometimes used to soften red wines made with the Syrah (Shiraz) grape. In addition to its softening qualities the grape also adds a stability and an enhanced perfume to the red wine.

Smoking Loon Viognier

Medium straw in color with seductive floral aromas of honeysuckle, pear, rose, passion fruit, orange blossom and clove. Dry and crisp, the palate is ripe with flavors of pineapple, apricot, white peach and guava nectar with a honeyed finish and a clean, balanced acidity. Enjoy this well-structured wine as an aperitif or with complex dishes such as green curry, five-spice duck or sweet and sour Mushu chicken.
85 points – Wine Enthusiast
Approx Retail $11

McManis Viognier

Medium-to-full in body with intense aromas of apricot, peach, honey and pears which are accompanied by underlying mineral notes. The peach and pear found on the nose carry over to the palate of this rich wine. The finish is long, faintly flinty and clean, with hints of citrus. Pair this tropical, well-rounded white with exotic star fruit or with dishes such as spicy stir-fry, sautéed halibut, chicken satay or Pad Thai.
85 points – Wine Spectator
Approx Retail $12

Viognier is a wonderful wine to try if you are looking to expand your palate. They tend to be soft, round, bursting with fruit and perfect for a wide range of foods. Viognier is truly different experience in wine drinking.

NJ Wine Centers, Plaza Liquor