International Viognier Day
The History of Viognier
Viognier (vee-ohn-yay) has a range of rather disreputable origin stories, however what remains true in each is that the first significant plantings were in its native Rhône Valley, France.
Its name is also thought to be derived from a Roman word that translates to ‘Road to the Valley of Hell’, which is apt due to Viognier’s nature to be low yielding, susceptible to disease and very particular about climate.
This variety needs sunny days for optimal ripening tempered by cool nights to retain acidity, which makes several Australian wine regions perfect for this temperamental fruit.
Viognier was first planted in Australia in the 1970s and there are now around 765 hectares of vineyards around the country, including the Perth Hills and Great Southern.
Fun fact: Legend has it that Viognier first came to the Rhône Valley travelling on a cargo ship along the Rhône River enroute to Beaujolais. This ship was captured by local outlaws known as 'culs de piaux' and this is how the variety was first planted in the region!
What does Viognier taste like?
Depending on how it’s made, Viognier will range in intensity from light and fruity with a touch of bitterness to bold and creamy. If you are a Chardonnay lover looking for something a bit different, Viognier might just be your new favourite wine!
On the nose, Viognier is a very aromatic wine with rich aromas of tangerine, mango, honeysuckle, rose, and peach. Oaked versions will also have subtle vanilla and toasty aromas.
On the palate Viognier is usually rich and full bodied. Wines are almost always noted for an oily sensation on the middle of the tongue which is a characteristic of Viognier.
Fun fact: Viognier is often blended with Shiraz to add complexity and stabilise color.
Viticulturist John Fogarty helped father Peter Fogarty plant the first Viognier vines at Millbrook in 1996, some of the first Viognier vines in Western Australia.
All Hail Viognier at Millbrook
Renowned wine writer Erin Larkin of the Halliday Wine Companion describes Viognier as "the cornerstone variety at Millbrook" and with two single varietal expressions on offer – the Regional Viognier and the Estate Viognier – as well as the Estate blend of Shiraz Viognier, her comments couldn’t be more true.
Peter Fogarty describes his decision to pave the way for premium Viognier in Western Australia after a trip to France in the 1990s when he tasted a Viognier from Condrieu in the Rhône Valley. He said: “I started hunting for Viognier vines to take cuttings from. I eventually found some vines growing in Chittering and John Fogarty and I went and took cuttings from them and planted the block adjacent to the cottage at Millbrook.”
The next few years were a total immersion in all things Viognier. Peter said: "I went back to Condrieu about four years later to visit all the top producers in the region, learning their tricks and understanding how they make Viognier."
His passion and determination paid off and Peter was elated when the Millbrook wines were reviewed highly by renowned wine critic Robert Parker. He also described further success in 2012 and said: "Millbrook entered a World Viognier Challenge and the 2010 Estate Viognier was chosen as Best New World Viognier, also finishing second in the final taste off against other French wines."
Reflecting on his incredible accomplishment of establishing world-class Viognier in Western Australia Peter said: “I dare everyone to be brave and try one of the world’s great wines.”
Viognier is a varietal that is wholly celebrated at Millbrook; from the vine to your glass and even down to the food pairings at the award-winning estate restaurant, led by highly acclaimed Head Chef Guy Jeffreys.
Guy said: "Our annual Millbrook tradition is in spring when the Viognier is being blended, the days are warming, our first asparagus is coming up and our chickens and ducks start laying. We have a tradition to sit on the grass and dip blanched asparagus into coddled eggs and sip the new [Viognier] blend. Winter is over and spring has sprung!”
Read on to discover the incredible Millbrook Viognier wines below!
Millbrook 2021 Estate Viognier
"Viognier is one of the key varieties for Millbrook and it's got a good reputation. It has all the Turkish apricot, red apple, orchard blossom, frangipani and honeysuckle characters that we associate with viognier, but it also has a mineral seam of acidity that scrapes through the wine, keeping things fresh and lively. It's a beautiful wine, again."
– 95 Points, Halliday Wine Companion 2023
The Millbrook Estate Viognier is produced solely from estate vines, which Head Chef Guy Jeffreys believes imparts a real sense of time and place. When he thinks of this wine he said: "I picture standing at the top of heartbreak hill looking over the vines and down the valley towards the Millbrook winery."
Millbrook 2021 Regional Viognier
"Fennel flower, green apples, apricots, a touch of hessian, a flick of brine and ginger. The palate is more structural, more phenolic and more restrained than expected for the variety, but this is no bad thing. It might allow the drinker to have more than one glass, which is often the pitfall of viognier: it's bloody delicious, but it's too rich for its own good. The food match on the back of the bottle is rabbit and fennel risotto, and if you've been to the Millbrook restaurant, you'll be salivating at that."
– 93 Points, Halliday Wine Companion 2023
This is a real food wine and Emma’s excitement for this is evident when she exclaims: “Who doesn’t love a wine that goes so well with a wide array of dishes such as roast pork, master stock chicken, hard goats cheese, and mushroom risotto?”
Millbrook 2020 Estate Shiraz Viognier
"Wow, there is plenty happening here. It’s dark and almost opaque in colour. Comes off a small vineyard on the estate which is very low yielding. That accounts for the concentration and fruit power. The viognier is hidden at first but then merges with its spicy ginger and orange peel character."
- 95 Points, Ray Jordan Wine Guide 2023
When Peter and John Fogarty planted the first Viognier vines in 1996 at Millbrook Peter said: “I knew I wanted to produce a Côte Rotie style of red, usually about 95% Shiraz and 5% Viognier, as Millbrook was very similar to the Northern Rhône in altitude and soils, with a cooling breeze on hot days from the river valley.”
Head Chef Guy Jeffreys has even produced a delicious dish on the menu at the Millbrook Restaurant to showcase this flagship wine; charred eggplants, lamb saddle, black barley and aged feta.
Join in on the International Viognier Day celebrations by taking a trip to the Millbrook cellar door in Jarrahdale and tasting these award-winning wines, or by placing an order online here.