Raise a glass of viognier to your nose, and you are surrounded by the enchanting scent of a bouquet of orange blossoms, honeysuckle and roses. Take a sip, and the flavors of tangerine, peaches and maybe a touch of mango dance across your tongue. With the body and versatility of chardonnay, yet with softer acidity than some other white grapes, viognier is an easy wine to love.
This charming grape with the challenging name (pronounced vee-oh-n’yay) was popularized in the Northern Rhône valley in Southern France. Made famous by the appellations of Condrieu and Château-Grillet, the varietal was a favorite with wine aficionados but was not well-known among more casual wine drinkers until California winemakers embraced the grape in the mid-’90s. Now, viognier fans can find outstanding wines not only from France and California, but also from regions like Australia, Italy and South Africa and a growing number of Texas wineries.
Texas winemakers love viognier for its versatility. When fermented in stainless steel, viognier has bright lime flavors on the palate and an aroma of orange blossoms. But ferment viognier in oak and the wine deepens with hints of vanilla and caramel and a bouquet of honeysuckle and roses.
Erik Hilmy, owner and winemaker at Hilmy Cellars, likes to marry the two methods, fermenting half of his viognier in stainless steel and half in large French oak barrels called puncheons. “The unoaked wine has a freshness, while the oaked wine has a rounder, fuller body,” says Hilmy. “Blend them together, and it’s going to get happy.” Wine critics must agree, because the Hilmy Cellars 2015 Viognier won a gold medal at the 2018 TEXSOM International Wine Awards.
In addition to his single varietal wine, Hilmy likes to use viognier in white blends like his DOO.ZWA.ZO and Persephone wines. “Viognier has so much character, and it provides backbone and structure to white wine blends, really making them special,” says Hilmy.
Like Hilmy, winemakers across Texas have embraced viognier’s remarkable qualities, making it a staple in their production and a star on their wine lists.
Where to Find Texas Viognier
|Armadillo's Leap||2015 Viognier|
|Becker Vineyards||2017 Viognier Reserve|
|Bingham Family Vineyards||2014 Viognier|
|Brennan Vineyards||Cellar Select Viognier
2016 Classic Viognier
2017 Lily Blend
|Christoval Vineyards||2014 Rambouillet Viognier|
|Duchman Family Winery||2017 Viognier|
|Hilmy Cellars||2015 Viognier
2015 DO.ZWA.ZO Blend
2015 Persephone Blend
|Hye Meadow Winery||2017 Viognier, Bingham Family Vineyards|
|Infinite Monkey Theorem||Viognier|
|Kuhlman Cellars||2017 Calcaria Blend|
|Lewis Wines||2018 Viognier, Robert Clay Vineyards|
|Lost Draw Cellars||2017 Viognier|
|McPherson Cellars||2017 Viognier|
|Messina Hof||2017 Private Reserve Viognier|
|Pedernales Cellars||2016 Viognier Reserve
2016 Texas Vino Blanco Blend
|Perissos Vineyard & Winery||2016 and 2017 Estate Viognier
2017 Lucy Blend
|Ron Yates Winery||2016 Viognier, Bingham Family Vineyards
2016 and 2017 Viognier, Tio Pancho Ranch
|Wedding Oak Winery||2016 Viognier, High Valley Vineyards|
|Westcave Cellars||2017 High Cross Viognier|
By Kristi Willis • Photography by Jenna Northcutt