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Viognier – A Very Versatile Grape

By Alex Russell on January 28, 2015 in Food

Photo: Stuart Haigh

Photo: Stuart Haigh

Viognier (vee-ohn-yay) is a very versatile grape. It pops up in a lot of interesting wines, yet not many people drink much of it.

Viognier is a white grape. Its hallmark flavour as a white wine is a subtle apricot. Depending on how it is made, it can be aged for a few years and will develop more complex flavours. Viognier is often fermented in barrel, but the oak flavour is usually much more restrained than some of those big, oaky Chardonnays.

Viognier is super versatile with food. Roast chicken and Viognier is a personal favourite, but it’ll also go well with spicy dishes because there isn’t usually a searing acidity that you may find in other whites.

Viognier also blends very well, particularly with Shiraz. You may not realise this, but winemakers only need to account for 85% of the wine on the label, so if the wine is, say, 97 percent Shiraz and three percent Viognier, they don’t have to call it a Shiraz Viognier. Still, most Shiraz Viogniers only have up to about five percent Viognier and the majority winemakers opt to give credit to the versatile white grape.


It’s hard to go past Yalumba when it comes to Viognier. Louisa Rose absolutely owns the Viognier market. The entry-level ‘Y Series’ Viognier ($12ish) is decent value, but I find it hard to go past the Eden Valley Viognier ($20ish). It’s such a refreshing wine, with lifted peaches and apricots on the nose. In average years, it’s pretty good. In good vintages, it’s a great drop.

Clonakilla has an interesting take on the relatively new label ‘Viognier Nouveau’. It’s a crisp, fresh style of Viognier that’ll go down far too well on hot days. Imagine it with a peach or mango salad during summer.

Then there are the serious Viogniers. There are three here that I keep in the cellar, as all will reward at least five years of sleep. Clonakilla, By Farr and Yalumba (‘The Virgilius’) are all great examples of just how good a decent Viognier can be.
Other personal favourites are Petaluma, d’Arenberg (‘Last Ditch’) and just the other day I had The Lane’s 2007 at dinner – fresh as a daisy.


Clonakilla’s famous Shiraz Viognier is generally recognised as one of Australia’s best wines. You’ll find it on many wine lists and in many decent bottle shops, but stocks are always limited and it goes quickly. If someone still owes you a Christmas present, you’ve just found something to ask for.

Torbreck is famous for the ‘Runrig’, which in some years features a bit of Viognier. Their ‘Descendent’ is also a Shiraz Viognier. They’re a little more expensive, so maybe ask for them if someone owes you two or three Christmas presents.

There are a couple of amazing Shriaz Viogniers from the Yarra Valley. Yarra Yering makes the amazing ‘Dry Red #2’, while Yering Station makes the always-very-hard-to-get ‘Reserve’ Shiraz Viognier.

If you’re after something more affordable, Yalumba comes to the rescue once again, as does d’Arenberg. Yalumba’s ‘Hand-Picked’ Shiraz Viognier is a beauty, while d’Arenberg’s ‘Laughing Magpie’ is a very well-known drop indeed.

You’ll find a lot of other producers adding Viognier to their Shiraz, whether they tell you or not. Give them a go. Other favourites include Pondalowie, Guigal and Henschke’s ‘Henry’s Seven’.

Other Bits

Yalumba’s ‘FSW8B’ (Fine Sweet White) is a dessert wine made from Viognier and it is absolutely delicious. D’Arenberg also makes the ‘Noble Mud Pie’ sticky, with Viognier featuring prominently.

I’ve even discovered the occasional sparkling Viognier, but to finish up the night, the Yalumba ‘V de Vie’ is an unoaked distilled viognier spirit, which won’t be for everyone, but if you’re willing, you’ll be rewarded.

See, I told you it was versatile!