In 1965, a mere eight hectares of Viognier vineyards existed in the variety’s Northern Rhone homeland of Condrieu, France. (Each hectare is equivalent to 2.471 acres.) That’s amazing, since the grape had grown there for at least 2,000 years, quite likely transported to the Rhone by the Romans from Dalmatia.
Four decades following that 1965 assessment, Viognier (pronounced Vee-on-yay) has increased in popularity and, in many cases, its price has risen to the “serious drinker” level.
At first, the increase in planting was gradual with only 20 hectares recorded in 1986, then 40 in 1990, up to 80 in 1995, and then climbing to 108 hectares in 2000. But even today, this is just over half of the 200 hectares permitted by the French government for cultivation.
No wonder a growing number of American wineries have been planting the variety. Ditto for their counterparts in Australia. Those concurrent trends have helped push Viognier onto the world stage -where it most certainly belongs.
The first Viognier vines in California were introduced in the early 1980s at the Calera winery. Since then, plantings have spread to virtually every growing area in the state.