Very Virginia, Very Viognier


By Patrick Evans-Hylton

Ah, Chardonnay, the Marcia-Marcia-Marcia of the white wine world. It seems to get all of the attention while many other worthy grapes sit out the dance.

Enter Viognier (VEE-ohn-yay), a medium-to full-bodied offering with a mellow richness that delights on the nose and the palate. Swirl. Sniff. Sip. Notice characteristics like ripe stone fruit such as apricot and peach; lush tropical aspects such as pineapple, and delicate floral notes like honeysuckle and orange blossom. While such elements suggest a sweet wine, Viognier is typically a dry or slightly off-dry vintage. A classic French grape, this beauty is now very much at home in Virginia. In fact, it was named the commonwealth’s official grape in 2011. There are more than seven dozen Virginia wineries offering vintages made with the Viognier grape. It earns high praises from winegrowers and wine drinkers alike. A few years back, international wine guru Oz Clarke named a Virginia Viognier 2012 vintage as one of the 250 best wines in the world - one of only three United States wines to get such a designation. For the record, he loves Viognier with oysters on the half-shell from Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Perfect Pairings

  • Seafood does indeed go great with Viognier. Pair it with not just oysters on the half-shell, but also roasted oysters, and other shellfish like crab, lobster, scallops and shrimp.
  • Meats like baked and roasted chicken and pork dishes are also a good match, in addition to veal. The wine plays well with rich, creamy sauces and sauces with a bit of acidity, especially from citrus.
  • Cheeses to go with Viognier include soft and semi-soft offerings, like fresh chèvre and brie; gouda and gruyere are also good picks.
  • Nuts that are rich and buttery like cashews and macadamias are great selections.
  • Spices that are earthy and warm, whether seasoning a protein or sauce, are complimentary to Viognier. Try cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and za’atar.

Patrick Evans-Hylton is TASTE’s resident foodie, hosting a number of delicious events throughout the year. The Johnson & Wales-trained chef and wine and cheese expert is an award-winning food journalist, covering tasty trends since 1995 in print, broadcast and electronic media. He is publisher of Virginia Eats + Drinks Magazine; subscribe free at