One of the major white varieties of the Rhone region in France, Viognier was very nearly extinct as recently as the 1980s. In 1985, only 32 hectares of Viognier was planted world-wide. 23 of these 32 hectares were found in the appellation of Condrieu, in the Rhone Valley.
Jump forward to modern day, and the numbers are substantially better. Not only has Condrieu increased its total area of plantings to around 160 hectares, but Viognier is known and grown all over the world. It is made both as a single-varietal white wine, but also often blended with Shiraz in both the Old world and the New.
Known for their heady aromatic qualities, wines made from Viognier tend to be medium to full bodied, with alcohol levels ranging from 13-15%. This is due to the fact that the grapes must be left a long time to ripen on the vine, before they express their aromatic qualities to the fullest. This extra ripening results in higher sugar levels in the grapes, and therefore higher alcohol.
Nevertheless, when made well, the resulting wines are exceptional. An alluring mix of apricot and peach stone fruits, honeysuckle, baking spices and musk. The best examples have a balanced acidity on the palate, which leads to wines of incredible length and complexity. They can be oaked, or unoaked depending on the producer. Given the palate-weight of these wines, and their aromatic qualities, Viognier is often best matched with spicy South East Asian cuisine.