Vin de France & Grape Varieties


Encyclopedia of French Grape Varieties

{ White Wine }


This highly fashionable variety is native to the hills and valleys just south of Lyon. Legends surrounding grape varieties claim that Viognier originally comes from Dalmatia. What we know for sure is that this variety with miraculous qualities has been grown for 2,000 years in the area around Vienne, to the south of Lyon. A mutant strain is said to have recently appeared and migrated to several continents. Its taste, however, is less appealing than that of Viognier from southeastern France.

Viognier is a grape variety with rich, seductive aromas. The main notes encountered are white peach and violet. A number of other aromas are unveiled to the palate, including orange zest, candied apricot, white flowers - namely jasmine and chervil - sweet spices, musk and honey.

Wines produced
When grown in the right conditions, Viognier's varietal characteristics enable it to make highly aromatic, complex, powerful wines of the finest quality. Its wines have a warm mouthfeel, as the variety concentrates a high level of sugar. Viognier's strength lies in its capacity to combine acidity and body while maintaining an exceptional aromatic richness. It can also be used to make sweet or sparkling wines.

Areas planted
Viognier is mainly grown in the hills near Vienne and Valence as well as on the banks of the Ardèche. It is also found in the southeast between Avignon, Aix and Marseille, in the southwestern Mediterranean littoral, and in very small quantities in Corsica. In southern regions, it is planted in the least warm areas. Production of this highly fashionable grape variety stood at a modest 3,250 hectares in 2006, compared to only 14 hectares in 1968.

Budding and ripening
Viognier buds early, at the same time as Chasselas. It ripens much later, however, becoming fully ripe two and a half weeks after Chasselas, the benchmark grape variety.

This whimsical, difficult to grow grape variety is generally trained, as it is relatively susceptible to the wind. It must be pruned moderately long, and planted quite densely in order to obtain good results. Its early budding makes it particularly susceptible to springtime frosts.

Preferred soils
Typically grown in terroirs with acidic soils, it can be successfully adapted to southern areas as long as the soils are deep enough to avoid the risk of drought, yet not very fertile so as to keep yields as low as possible.

Ideal Climate
This grape variety requires a lot of heat to ripen fully, and it is considered to reach its aromatic peak at around 13% alcohol content. Nonetheless, we must be careful of excessive heat, which speeds up ripening too much and takes away the wine’s freshness.

Susceptibility to disease and pests
Viognier does not present any particular susceptibility to diseases. It is not very susceptible to gray mold.

Viognier is used only to produce wine. In certain years, it can be used to make extremely high-quality sweet liqueur-like wines.

Distinctive features
Viognier has a bubbled leaf blade with curly edges. The underside of the leaf has a sparse to moderately dense cover of upright and flat-lying hairs. The teeth of its lobes are medium-length with rectilinear sides, or may even have one convex side and one concave side. Viognier's berries are round and small, as are its bunches. The tips of Viognier's young shoots have a moderate to dense cover of flat-lying hairs, and its young leaves are green with slightly bronze patches. Viognier's adult leaves are light or medium green, small to medium in size and orbicular with three or five lobes. Its leaves are unique in that their petiolar sinus is open to slighly open, and the lower lateral sinuses are shallow. There is no anthocyanic pigmentation of the veins.

Clones marketed
The three approved Viognier clones (specifically named Viognier B) are numbers 642, 1042 and 1051. A conservatory of sixty clones was planted in the vineyards of Condrieu (Rhône) in 2002.

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