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Carl Hudson
July 20, 2016 | Wine Varietals | Carl Hudson

Viognier-A Natural for Texas

Viognier [vee-ohn-YAY] has become a key white grape variety in the burgeoning Texas wine industry.  Viognier is a naturally low-yielding grape with fragrant aromatics producing lush, full-bodied wines that have helped to fill the market where Chardonnay and other popular white wines have been less successful in the hot, dry Texas climate. 

Viognier, like Chardonnay, can produce full-bodied wines with lush, soft character,  However, unlike Chardonnay, Viognier has more natural aromatic components that can be readily oxidized, so barrel fermentation is used far less often.  These aromatics give Viognier floral notes (honeysuckle blossom, lilacs, violets) as well as the smell and flavor of fresh fruits (peaches, pears, apricots).  Viognier is typically cold fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged on the lees (spent yeast cells) for several months to preserve intense aromas, develop a deeper flavor profile and maintain overall acidity.  Viognier’s delicious aromatics require reasonable hang-time on the vine to fully develop.  Although Viognier prefers warmer climates, in the intense Texas heat, good growing practices and canopy (leaf) management in the vineyard are important to delay sugar development until the grape can reach full physiological ripeness.  Decisions by the grape grower and wine maker on when to harvest Viognier have a big influence on the overall aroma & flavor profile of the finished wine. 

Viognier probably originated in Croatia and was brought to the Rhone Valley of France by the Romans.  Popularity declined in the mid-20th century, but rebounded in the 1970’s-‘80’s, which helped provide vine-stock (scion) for the rest of the world.  In France, Viognier is often blended with Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache blanc.  The same is now true in Texas, with Muscat included in the blend mix.  However, Viognier on its own has certainly shown great merit, often winning prestigious awards like Top Texas Wine at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition (Brennan-2008, Becker-2009, Pedernales-2013).  Brennan, Lost Oak and McPherson Viogniers have recently won medals in major International Wine Competitions.  With such success, it is not surprising that Viognier has become one of the top, if not THE most popular, white varietal in Texas.  It should be noted that most Viogniers, especially those made in Texas, are typically best drunk young within 1-3 years of the vintage. 

There are several good versions of Viognier at 4.0 Cellars.  Brennan Vineyards produces a regular Viognier and a reserve Viognier (influenced by oak aging), along with blends, like Lily and Three White Chicks.  Lost Oak Winery bottles Viognier and includes the grape in white blends like Quartet or Quintet.  Viognier-based wines from McPherson Cellars, including Les Copains Blanc and Tre Colore, are also sometimes available at 4.0 Cellars. 


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