It’s big, it’s bold, it’s voluptuous and it nearly died out last century, but now Viognier has its own international day.
The first International Viognier Day was launched this year by Yalumba Wines. This South Australian winery has done much to revive this grape’s flagging fortunes by working on Viognier clonal selection and setting up the first ever Viognier Symposium in 2002 as well as encouraging other wineries to produce this full bodied, flavoursome white wine, which has distinctive intense peachy aromas and tends to lend itself to high alcohol, viscous (high glycerol) dry white wines. There are now (at last count) at least 500 Australian wineries making Viognier and at least 4,395 hectares of Viognier grown around the world, according to the Wine Grapes encyclopedia. There are 299 hectares of Viognier growing on record in New Zealand, which may not sound like much but which is also a far cry from the miniscule 14 hectares which were grown world wide in the mid 20th Century, all of them on the steep right bank of the northern Rhone Valley in France.
“Viognier first caught the eye of the family owned Yalumba Wines in the early 1970s. At the time, plantings were limited to the tiny appellations of Condrieu and Côte Rôtie, France,” says Robert Hill-Smith, of Yalumba.
In 1980, Yalumba planted 1.2 hectares of Viognier vines in Eden Valley, which represented the first significant plantings of Viognier in Australia. These plantings are now amongst the oldest in Australia.
There are now four Viogniers produced by Yalumba. The top wine is Virgilius, named from the vineyard of the same name in the Eden Valley in South Australia. www.internationalviognierday.com