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Diversity of landscape, terrain and climate make Virginia one of the most exciting American wine producing states today. Its viticultural history reaches as far back as 1607 when early settlers made the first wine from indigenous American grapes.
Thomas Jefferson imported the first French varieties to Virginia and grew the Vitis vinifera species (the European species), though not with great success.
Today, however, increased knowledge and optimal vineyard management techniques bring prosperity with a great number of diverse varieties. Virginia’s varied landscape has created seven distinct AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).
Encouraged by an enthusiastic state government, fine wine production in Virginia continues to flourish. The state achieves success with a variety of wine types and styles including sparkling wines, Bordeaux Blends, Nebbiolo, Chardonnay, Viognier and less common whites like Petit Manseng and Vermentino.
Full-figured and reminiscent of a potent floral perfume, Viognier is the mandatory grape of the northern Rhône appellation Condrieu and neighboring monopole (an entire appellation dedicated to just one winery) Château Grillet. It is also a blending variety in several appellations throughout the entire Rhône Valley. Viognier is grown throughout much of the world with some degree of success, but is perhaps at its best outside of France in Oregon, Washington, and cooler parts of Australia, where minerality and acidity can be achieved to give the wine the backbone it can sometimes lack.
In the Glass
This is a heady, aromatic variety making rich, complex, and full-bodied white wines redolent of a floral bouquet and assorted stone fruits and tropical fruits, with a hint of spice not unlike that of Gewürztraminer. It is lower in acidity than most white wines, lending to its heavy impression on the palate. While a whiff of Viognier might suggest sweet flavors, these wines are typically quite dry.
Viognier is an intense, bold variety that can easily stand up to gutsy food like pork loin with apricot stuffing, chicken Kiev, or rich, spicy fare.
While Viognier is a white grape, it also plays an important role in the red wines of Côte Rôtie in the northern Rhône, made otherwise from Syrah. About 5% Viognier is typically co-fermented with the Syrah in order to stabilize the color, and as an added benefit, add a subtle perfume.