It’s Virginia Wine Month: A Look at Virginia’s Official Grape, Viognier

It’s Virginia Wine Month! With nineteen days left in October, there’s still time to discover your local Virginia crush…which one of the 210 wineries AND which grape variety?

One of my favorite grape varieties is Virginia’s official grape, Viognier. A grape and wine variety originating in the French region of Condrieu in Northern Rhône, Viognier grows very well in Virginia’s climate and soil. Typically a dry or slightly off dry white wine with a lovely bouquet of tropical fruit, pear and honey in nose and taste. Horton Vineyards helped put Viognier on the map in Virginia with its first vintage in 1992 which received many accolades.

At last week’s Virginia Wine Summit, there was a panel discussion about Viognier…why this grape makes a great wine in Virginia and what the characteristics are. Wines represented on the panel were all lovely with slight variations…

Overall sentiments from the panel, which included Jennifer Blosser (Director of Sales and Hospitality at Breaux Vineyards), Matthieu Finot (winemaker at King Family Vineyards) and Stephen Barnard (winemaker at Keswick Vineyards), were this…

  • Viognier in Virginia tends to be closer to the French Old World style of the wine than the often heavier New World California style.
  • Aromatics express themselves very nicely thanks to Virginia’s climate and soil.
  • There’s lots of variation with the variety based on the year’s conditions which is a great thing for Virginia.
  • One of biggest challenges with the grape is acidity. Achieving balance in Virginia’s climate is tough, and all wineries agreed, they acidify the wine if needed. As Luca Paschina, Winemaker and General Manager at Barboursville Vineyards, attending the discussion said, “Why not add acid if the wine needs it? It’s like a chef that adds salt or lemon juice to a recipe if it needs it.”
  • Viognier is a great example of how Virginia wines are a bridge between West Coast wines and European wines.

Tasting the wines and listening to the discussion, you could see, taste and hear why this is a great official grape for Virginia, a distinguishing variety for the state.

As Jennifer Blosser put it best, “Viogner is like Chardonnay with perfume and heels.”

Get out their and discover your local crush!