An ode to Viognier – a grape that just wants to be itself

April 28, 2022
By Ioni Doherty

Last year, South Australian winery Yalumba staked out the last Friday in April and declared it International Viognier Day. This year, they invite wine lovers and wine growers Australia wide to join the celebration and to get to know the wonder and versatility of this grape; a grape, which Yalumba say, just wants to be itself.

 “We set the date and hope that they will come,” said Yalumba’s Jessica Hill-Smith when we joined her for a wine tasting to get to know this varietal, pronounced vee-on-yee-ay. Ms Hill-Smith’s family first planted their Viognier vines in the Eden Valley in 1980 when plantings were limited to the tiny appellations of Condrieu and Côte Rôtie, France.

“Viognier’s friends in the Rhône Valley (Shiraz and Grenache) had been growing well in Eden Valley since the 1840s, so we knew the variety would be well-suited to the regional conditions,” says head of winemaking, Louisa Rose who began working at Yalumba in 1992. This is when things really changed for Viognier in Australia.

Through seasons and experience with the grape, Ms Rose learned to just “let the viognier shine in its own right” rather than trying to turn it into a Pinot Gris or a Riesling.

Today, Yalumba’s Viognier wines are now renowned on the world stage. Yalumba currently exports between 80-85 per cent of its Viognier to the UK and the US where the Y Series is the leading Viognier import.

It has been an evolution with 40 years of knowledge, says Ms Rose and Yalumba now produces five Viogniers: Y Series Viognier, Eden Valley Viognier, Organic Viognier, FSW 8B Botrytis Viognier and The Virgilius Viognier .

During the tasting, Ms Rose explained that the Viognier grape loves the sunshine and likes to be treated similarly to Shiraz and Grenache. Grapes are picked when very ripe they are high in sugar and their natural acidity is far lower than those crisp, bright Rieslings that most of us are used to.

But there is still a freshness to Yalumba’s Viongiers and they do well as an aperitif, just when you are starting to think about dinner. Each of the wines tasted – except the honeyed botrytis – had a slight spice to them: gingery, peppery and aromatic.

Yalumba’s Y Series and Organic Viogniers are aged in stainless steel while The Virgilius and Eden Valley Viogniers are aged in French oak bringing out those stone fruit flavours and rounding out the structure of the wine.

The Y Series is a great place to start on the Viognier journey. At $15 a bottle, it is value for money, approachable and made with big flavour crops from the Coonawarra, Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley.

At the other end of the spectrum, The Virgilius is world class and a beautiful wine with length, texture, gingery and golden, with light and peppery aromatics and flavours. It retails for $50 per bottle.

Tanunda red wine producer Langmeil has also ventured into Viognier with the Three Gardens Viognier Marsanne Roussanne 2021 retailing for $20.

This is a wine that goes beautifully with all foods, and in fact Ms Rose asks people to tell her which food Viognier does not suit.

“Chefs love this wine and the possibilities for their food when working with this wine,” she says.

It is just that Australians have not quite embraced it as much as Yalumba hopes that they will.

Ms Rose says that the challenge is to first get people “over the hurdle of pronunciation and then the next of getting people to try it”.

So, given today is International Viognier Day and that it’s Friday, there is simply no reason not to fill your glass and get to know this delicious varietal. All Yalumbas Viogniers are available here.

Share the content

Related Posts