Viognier: The Alternative Wine for Chardonnay and Shiraz Lovers
Did you know that 80% of Australian vineyards are dominated by just six grape varieties? Can you guess the six grape varieties? If you check your wine rack, you probably have all six of them in there. They are:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Sauvignon Blanc
However, with eyes on the future of the Australian wine industry, and issues such as climate change, increasing water prices, longer droughts, and temperature fluctuations, forward thinking wineries are looking to adapt. Adapting might mean planting different grape varieties that can tolerate drought, consume less water and handle extreme temperatures.
In this series we’ll look at some of the alternative white and red grape varieties being planted and becoming more popular in Australia. We’ll also look at the wineries growing these alternative grapes, and recommend wines to try.
We all have favourite wine varieties we gravitate to — but if you dare to try something new, you might be surprised what you find.
While some may consider Viognier a well-known grape variety, Viognier is technically classified as an ‘alternative’ wine variety. Approximately 1,400 hectares of Viognier (just under 9% of the country’s total vineyard area) have been planted in Australia by just over 500 growers — so there is quite a lot to choose from.
How would you describe it?
- Vividly coloured
- Highly aromatic
- Strongly flavoured
- Fruit pastilles
- Strong stone fruit flavours
- Mix of apricot, honey, orange blossom and orange peel, peach aroma
Would I like it?
If you’re a Chardonnay drinker looking for a change, but don’t like the fruity notes of a Sauvignon Blanc, then Viognier could be a new wine for you to try.
Where is it predominately grown?
Viognier grapes are generally grown in cool to temperate regions in Australia. According to James Halliday, some of the most interesting Viognier wines come from the Goulburn Valley, the Central Victorian High Country and various parts of the Adelaide Hills including the Eden Valley.
I’m interested — what should I try?
Yalumba Wines is a member of the First Families of Wine, an initiative created by 12 family-owned Australian wineries and they were the first winery in Australia to plant Viognier grapes for commercial use back in 1980. They started with 1.2 hectares of Viognier grapes, and today offer a number of different Viognier wines at different price points:
- Around $10: Yalumba Y Series Viognier. The 2015 vintage won a bronze medal in the 2016 Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show
- Around $20: Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier. The 2015 vintage won a gold medal in the 2016 Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show
- Around $40: Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier. The Virgilius Viognier, one of Yalumba’s premium wines, is the most iconic, sourced from the Eden Valley Viognier vineyards. If you want to spend the money, you’ll find a wine described by Max Allen as a “magnificent expression of both the grapes, and the area where they are grown”.
Other drink-worthy Viogniers:
The following wines have also been awarded medals in the 2016 Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show:
- Around $20: 2016 Tahbilk Viognier (Silver Medal)
- Around $20: 2015 Ballandean Estate Viognier (Silver Medal)
- Around $40: 2016 Hentley Farm Viognier (Bronze Medal)
Mixing white grapes with red: Shiraz Viognier
We’re predominately looking at grapes bottled on their own to showcase their individual properties, but sometimes a blend is so remarkable we just have to mention it. In this case, the blend is Shiraz Viognier.
In this Shiraz blend, growers add between 5-15% Viognier to the bottle. The Australian winery leading the pack with Shiraz Viognier is Clonakilla, and James Halliday considers it one of the best red wines in Australia.
So, in the name of research, why not try a new wine and give Viognier a go. Let us know what you think!
Today’s best Viognier prices
Shannan Kesper •