Once nearly extinct, this medium to full-bodied varietal white Rhone now leads this category in new plantings in the United States, Australia, and South America. Viognier is a white wine grape similar to the Chardonnay grape that can result in a very full-bodied white wine. However, it displays a larger range of floral and fruit aromas than Chardonnay. It also requires a greater degree of skill in the fermentation process to retain those distinctive aromas. Viognier is very sensitive to growing conditions. It requires a climate with long periods of sun, but that is not so hot that it causes the grape to develop high levels of alcohol and sugar before the aromas can materialize. That is why at Aver Family vineyards we source our grapes from one of the finest Viognier vineyards in California, Catie’s Corner Vineyard in Sonoma county. Viognier also has a very limited yield and is vulnerable to powdery mildew, all of which makes the luscious, soft wine it produces a highly prized in today’s market.
Viognier is recognized for its distinctive floral and fruit aromas and luscious soft finish. The development of its flavors depends on the location and soil content of the vineyard, the weather, the fermentation method, and the age of the vines. Although the wine produced from old vines or late harvest is sometimes aged, it is recommended that Viognier be enjoyed while it is young since it may lose its distinctive aromas if kept longer than three years. It is considered to be a dry wine, although it can also be a sweet dessert wine if made from late harvest grapes. At Aver Family Vineyards, we focus on bringing out the stone fruit characteristics and producing a round, soft, lush mouthfeel to make a truly delicious and unique style Viognier.
Although thought to be an ancient grape, the origin of the variety is unknown. It is speculated, by some, that the Romans may have brought it from Dalmatia (now Croatia) to the Rhone region as early as 281 A.D. The origin of the name is also unknown, possibly derived from the city of Vienne, or alternately from the Roman “via Gehenna”, interpreted as “Road of the Valley of Hell”, which may be due to how difficult it was to cultivate the grape.
While the Viognier grape eventually came to be commonplace in the northern Rhone region, by 1965 it almost became extinct due to the introduction of insect species from North America into Europe in the 19th century. The turmoil and abandonment of the vineyards during World War I was also detrimental. Only 30 acres of vines remained in France, and they were still considered endangered into the mid-1980’s. Since that time, the demand for new varietals has resulted in a boom in plantings around the globe. Viognier has become a prized choice by wine connoisseurs throughout the world.
Viognier is produced and sold with the name “Benevolent” by Aver Family Vineyards in Gilroy, California and features flavors of apricot, white peach and honeysuckle highlighted by notes of lemon and citrus. This wine pairs well with spicy foods, seafoods, especially shellfish, or it may be sipped all on it’s own! To try a truly delicious Viognier check out our Benevolent.