Viognier vs Chardonnay Basics: Both are creamy-textured full-bodied white wines often matured in oak barrels. However, you’ll discover that Chardonnay and Viognier are distinct if you concentrate on their aromatic characteristics. Discover how the distinctions between them create unique olfactory qualities and meal pairings.
Below is a comparison table between Viognier and Chardonnay, two popular white wine grape varieties:
|Origin||Rhône Valley, France||Burgundy, France (Chablis, Macon, etc.) but grown worldwide|
|Aroma and Flavor||– Aromatic and floral||– Wide range of flavors, often influenced by winemaking techniques and region; can include green apple, citrus, vanilla, butter, oak, and more|
|Body||Medium to full-bodied||Light to full-bodied|
|Acidity||Low to moderate||Moderate to high|
|Alcohol Content||13.5% to 15.5%||12.5% to 14.5%|
|Oak Aging||Rarely oaked||Often oaked, which can impart vanilla, butter, and toasty notes|
|Fruit Profile||Stone fruits (peach, apricot) and tropical fruits (pineapple, mango)||Apple, citrus, and melon are common, but can vary widely|
|Food Pairing||– Pairs well with spicy and aromatic dishes<br>- Complements Asian cuisine<br>- Great with seafood and shellfish||– Versatile; goes with a wide range of foods<br>- Buttered popcorn to lobster and chicken to creamy pasta|
|Aging Potential||Typically best when consumed young (1-3 years)||Can age gracefully, with premium Chardonnays benefiting from aging (3-10+ years)|
|Wine Regions||– France (Condrieu in Rhône Valley)<br>- California<br>- Australia<br>- South America||– Burgundy, France<br>- California (Napa, Sonoma)<br>- Australia (Margaret River)<br>- New Zealand<br>- South Africa|
|Price Range||Moderate to expensive||Affordable to premium|
|Popular Blends||Often used in blends for added aromatic complexity||Rarely used in blends, usually bottled as a varietal wine|
|Notable Examples||– Guigal Condrieu (France)<br>- Yalumba Viognier (Australia)<br>- Tablas Creek Vineyard (California)||– Louis Jadot Chablis (France)<br>- Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve (California)<br>- Leeuwin Estate Art Series (Australia)|
1. Overview of Viognier and Chardonnay
Viognier is a grape variety used to make super delicious white wines. Known for creating full-bodied white wines of depth and flavor. It is the only grape allowed to make French Condrieu wine in the Rhône Valley.
In addition to the Rhône, Viognier can be found in areas of North and South America as well as Australia, New Zealand, Cape Winelands in South Africa, and Israel. In some wine regions, this variety is fermented with the red wine grape Syrah. Where it can contribute to the color and aroma of the wine.
The origin of the Viognier grape is unclear. It is believed to be an ancient grape, possibly originating from Dalmatia (present-day Croatia). And then brought to the Rhône by the Romans. One legend has it that the Roman emperor Probus brought vines to the region in AD 281.
The most common name is the French city of Vienna. Once a major Roman outpost. Another legend holds that it got its name from the Roman pronunciation of via Gehennae. Means “The Way of Hell’s Valley”. Perhaps this is an allusion to the difficulty of growing grapes.
DNA analysis has revealed an intimate relationship between Viognier and Syrah.
In 2004, conducting DNA analysis at the University of California. Davis shows that the grape is closely related to Freisa of Piedmont and is a genetic cousin of Nebbiolo.
Viognier has the potential to produce full-bodied wines with lush, soft character. More natural aromas include peach, apricot, pear, violet, honeysuckle, and mineral notes. However, these fragrance notes can be easily destroyed by overexposure to oxygen. This makes barrel fermentation demanding a high level of skill on the part of the producer.
The grape’s highly aromatic and fruity character allows the White Wine to pair well with spicy dishes such as Thai cuisine.
Apricot, peach, white peach, and nectarine are frequent descriptors of Viognier’s abundant stone fruit flavors, however orange and citrus oil can also be detected. White wines made from Viognier frequently have a honeyed flavor as well, and sweeter bottlings accentuate this characteristic; late-harvest Viognier, for instance, frequently has an ambrosially rich flavor.
Viognier develops nutty flavors like almonds as it ages, yet due to its lower acidity, it is difficult to find older bottles of wine because acid is one of the factors that permits white wine to age. It sings on a palate-coating and savory note when combined with other grapes like Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, as in the J. Lohr “Gesture” RVG. When blended into red wines, like the aforementioned Côte-Rôtie, Viognier can help more flavorful Syrah stand out.
Viognier must be served at the proper temperature. Less cold bottles will let the flowers and honey show more brightly, but cooler bottles will be more vivacious and brightly fruity. You may experience firsthand how significantly serving temperature influences this intriguing wine by pouring a well-chilled bottle of Viognier into a glass and tasting it every few minutes as the temperature rises.
A popular white grape variety planted all over the world is chardonnay. It has an almost supernatural capacity to convey both the character of the growing region and the winemaker’s style. As a result, Chardonnay can have a wide range of flavors, from crisp and invigorating to velvety and rich. Even Champagne is made mostly from grapes of this kind. Whatever your preferences, there is probably a Chardonnay out there that will satisfy you.
For more than a thousand years, Burgundy, in France, has been the home of Chardonnay cultivation. Most wine experts concur that the best of them are produced there, particularly in the Côte de Beaune (located in the southern region of the renowned Côte d’Or).
Chardonnay grapes are grown in Grand Cru vineyards like Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne, and others and are used to make wines that can frequently age and change for many years. The Chablis Chardonnay wines are made oppositely, with an emphasis on delicious acidity and gritty minerality, further north in Burgundy. The Chardonnays of the Côte Chalonnaise and the entire Mâconnais region in southern Burgundy frequently offer outstanding value that is difficult to find in other regions of Burgundy.
Along with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay is one of the three principal grape varietals allowed in Champagne. Champagne Blanc de Blancs is entirely made of Chardonnay.
Chardonnay is typically made in a fuller style in the Russian River Valley and Napa Valley of Sonoma, frequently with oak and a small bit of butteriness, which gives it depth and creaminess. It is produced in a variety of styles in Washington State, Oregon, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and other places. An international grape variety is Chardonnay.
Chardonnay naturally contains fruit aromas that are frequently compared to melons and fruit from fall orchards, such as apples and pears. It frequently has a mild brininess and overtones of chalk when produced in soils that are higher in calcium.
Tropical fruit flavors like pineapple, papaya, mango, and guava are frequently found in Chardonnays from warmer regions. Oak-influenced Chardonnays often feature flavors and aromas of vanilla, cinnamon, clove, and hints of butter if they have undergone malolactic fermentation. Chardonnay spans the spectrum in the best manner.
2. Comparison of Viognier vs Chardonnay
Despite having different ancestries, both grapes share French origins. While Viognier is a member of the Syrah pedigree, Chardonnay is a part of the Pinot pedigree. This observation leads us to two conclusions:
Finding Great Wines: Syrah, a grape that prefers a warmer environment, tends to be produced in fantastic places that also tend to produce outstanding Viognier. Since both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are grown in milder climates, this link also holds for them.
Finding Great Matches: You may think of these wines as excellent alternatives to one another on the table with a meal in terms of gastronomy and food pairing. Syrah and Viognier typically have a higher tolerance for taste (and fat) in a dish than Chardonnay and Pinot Noir do.
Although this is greatly influenced by the region where the grapes were grown, Chardonnay tends to be more explosive at the beginning (or “attack”) and ends with a creamy, savory flavor.
Viognier, on the other hand, frequently has a much gentler beginning that develops into an oily sensation in the middle of the palate (a trait of the grape) before finishing with a limey-tangerine note that is reminiscent of bitter citrus rind.
When generated from climate-related places, their weights are comparable. Viognier frequently has additional bitter, almond-husk-like scents on the finish in addition to the citrus flavors.
2.3. Food pairing
The taste of oaked Viognier is a little less acidic and has a more fragrant, aromatic quality. In addition to root vegetables like carrot, yam, and turnip, fruit (apricot and orange), and middle-weight proteins with an emphasis on umami (such as butter-poached shrimp or lobster, river fish, pork chops, etc.), look for items containing Moroccan or Tunisian spices (such as saffron, turmeric, ginger, and paprika).
On the tongue, oaked Chardonnay has a creamy or waxy texture, almost no discernible sweetness, and a concentration of lemon and yellow apple notes. Choose dishes that feature delicate green herbs like tarragon, savory, and thyme, cream (or a texture that is akin to cream), and leaner “white” proteins like chicken, turkey, pork loin, or scallops when serving Chardonnay.
2.4. Aging Potential
One of the wine varieties where the grapes are harvested early and the wine is aged in oak barrels for a specified period before being bottled is viognier. Some viogniers do not reach their full flavor profile until they are 15-20 years old, and some are left to age for at least 70 years, like Chateau Grillet.
Although in some cases it is ideal to consume it when it is still young, it has a reputation for being left in oak for decades. A delicate, silky white wine with a powerful, sweet aroma is produced by maturing. Viognier’s robust, rich, and complex scent, which is comparable to overripe apricots, is its key selling point.
The most well-known of the aged whites is this one. Higher acidity combined with oak aging (which adds tannin) gives Chardonnay its capacity to mature. Make careful to search for low-pH Chardonnay wines.
2.5. Adverse Risks Associated with Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol use has several dangers, from short-term ones like injury and aggression to long-term ones like chronic diseases. Women who are pregnant, persons under the age of 21, those who are battling alcoholism, and those who are unable to control their alcohol intake are among those who shouldn’t consume alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, it should be avoided by anyone who intends to drive or engage in any other activity that calls for concentration and expertise. However, the laws governing the purchase and consumption of alcohol vary by nation.
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3. Some Notes When Buying Viognier and Chardonnay
With a fairly light 12% alcohol content, it is the best thing for enjoying glasses of Chardonnay wine at celebratory parties, contributing to a lighter, richer taste.
Viognier ranges from about 13.5% to 15% by volume (ABV). If you prefer a lighter, leaner Vignier, look for wines that range from around 14% ABV or less. And if you want a richer, bolder, fruit-oriented style, choose a wine with a higher concentration.
In general, there are 2 stylistic differences that winemakers choose between when producing Viognier: new oak aging versus neutral/unaging oak. New aged oak offers richer creamy flavors, lower acidity, and aromas of cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla. Neutral and not aging oak (manufactured in stainless steel) will bring out more fruity and tropical flavors in the wine while maintaining acidity and often a subtle bitterness.
Since Chardonnay is produced everywhere, you can begin to familiarize yourself with regional differences. Climate greatly influences these differences. Things like winemaking style and tradition can play an important role.
Chardonnay’s bolder style pairs great with bold, creamy dishes like mushroom risotto, lobster and chicken biscuits, leeks, and ham pie. Flavors range from bolder flavors of lush tropical fruit, toasted pineapple, toasted avocado, and vanilla. To the milder flavors of boiled pear, lemon curd, baked apple, and chalky mineral texture.
Citrusy, Chardonnay not baked
If you love a light white wine with floral and citrus flavors then unblend Chardonnay is your style. Flavors range from fruity notes of golden apple, fresh pineapple, and mango to more intense flavors. More flowers of white flowers, green apples, pears, and citrus peels.
Sparkling Chardonnay: Blanc de Blancs
Chardonnay is the most common white wine used in sparkling wines (including Champagne). Blanc de Blancs pair well with savory fried dishes from veal to fried chicken. This is the best Chardonnay Champagne to try now!
Viognier produces the best wines when it grows in sunny areas with temperatures moderated by cool nights or nearby waters. The importance of cool weather is to maintain Viognier’s precious acidity. When searching for fine Viognier wines, you will notice these regional characteristics. Here are a few examples of where to look:
- The Northern Rhône Valley in France (Condrieu and Château-Grillet)
- Walla Walla and the Columbia Valley in Washington
- Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Elgin in South Africa
- Eden Valley (Barossa) and Adelaide Hills, South Australia
- Paso Robles, Central and North Coast California
Besides France and New Zealand, Australia is a famous country producing Chardonnay wine. Cool climates, namely the hillsides or rivers in Western Australia’s Margeret River region, Victoria, and the Yarra Valley are home to the best Chardonnay wines.
4. Viognier vs. Chardonnay: Which is more expensive?
- 1970 Chateau-Grillet, Rhone, France ($1265)
- 2014 M. Chapoutier Condrieu Coteaux de Chery, Rhone, France ($211)
- 2015 Cayuse Vineyards Cailloux Vineyard Viognier, Walla Walla Valley, USA ($115)
- 2018 Yarra Yering Carrodus Viognier, Yarra, Australia ($108)
- 2015 E. Guigal Condrieu Luminescence, Rhone, France ($171)
What Does Chardonnay Wine Cost? A typical bottle of chardonnay will cost you roughly $16 (around $15.95). However, the priciest chardonnay wines you will now find are listed below:
- The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay “Judgment of Paris” cost $11,325
- Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet Grand Cru ($5,923).
- The 2005 Marcassin Estate cost $400.
- Marcassin Estate 2010 ($250).
- The 2013 Aubert “CIX” Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, priced at $220
Q: What does Viognier taste like?
The scents of jasmine and spring blossom, as well as the delicious flavors of peach and apricot, are what make the Viognier grape unique.
Q: What is a good Viognier wine?
A quality Viognier will be creamy in texture, flowery in flavor, and heavy in mouthfeel. Additionally, it won’t have much citrus flavor or acid.
Q: Is Viognier served chilled?
Viognier should ideally be served at 52F or below room temperature. It enables the maximum possible enjoyment of the rich wine flavors.
Q: Is Viognier good for cooking?
Given that Viognier is an aromatic wine, it complements dishes that have strong or spicy characteristics well. Viognier’s unique flowery scents balance out dishes with lots of spices.
Q: Why is Viognier so popular?
Although the language used to describe this unusual grape can be extremely racy, admirers of viognier adore the full-bodied, flowery, and ripe-fruited qualities that give these wines their distinctive flavor.
Q: Is Viognier the same as Chardonnay?
Despite having different lineages, both grape varieties share French origins. While Viognier is a member of the Syrah pedigree, Chardonnay is a part of the Pinot pedigree.
Q: Is Chardonnay a cheap wine?
Like any wine, chardonnay is available in a range of price points, from dirt cheap to exorbitantly expensive.
Q: Why wine is expensive?
A bottle of wine’s pricing reflects a variety of factors. The production costs, or the price paid to manufacture the liquid in the bottle, come first.
Q: Do people drink expensive wine?
Regardless of personal preference, most people concur that a $20 wine tastes better than a $10 wine. However, a weird thing happens when the price rises: wine connoisseurs prefer pricey wines more. Non-enthusiasts tend to enjoy pricey wines a little less.
Q: Why wine is great?
Numerous studies have demonstrated a link between consuming polyphenols and a lower risk of CVD. Wines include polyphenols, which are actively present in flavonoids and may have anti-cariostatic potential.
Comparing Viognier vs Chardonnay and choosing 1 of 2 can be very difficult. It is believed among the small but devoted Chardonnay and Viognier drinkers in the wine world that if you prefer a Chardonnay, you will probably also enjoy a Viognier, and vice versa!
A dry Chardonnay, however, will be enjoyable if you like butter and vanilla aromas to fruity and floral ones. A Viognier is better for you if you like subtle floral flavors.
With over a decade of experience in viticulture, Simon Conner is the perfect writer to help you find and maintain your prized vintages. As an expert on food, wine, and kitchen products, he offers his expertise to guide clients through every step involved with collecting and selling wines.