In 1970 a chance encounter occurred between a representative of Yalumba, Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, and this long-forgotten grape. As chardonnay gained prominence through the ’70s and ’80s, full-bodied and complex Australian whites took the world by storm. Remembering that decade-old encounter, and looking to stay ahead of the curve, Yalumba made the decision to bring viognier back from the dead.
Importing the plant from France in 1980, Yalumba planted 1.2 hectares of the grape in the Barossa Valley, and thus gave it a new lease on life. While it represented a challenge, the winery slowly began to understand the grape’s complexities, eventually harvesting crops that were as consistent as any in the Rhone Valley. A few Californian wineries followed suit, and the variety began to flourish.
Viognier is now seen as one of Australia’s most fashionable whites. While it remains a low quantity variety that won’t replace sauvignon blanc, chardonnay or pinot grigio any time soon, its distinctive taste has seen it attract a substantial following in the last decade.