Viognier and Food Pairings

Ingredients and Styles

Viognier is underrated in its ability to pair with food. A good example possesses the richness and creamy texture of Chardonnay, the balanced acidity of a well-made Sauvignon Blanc, and a flavor profile combining aspects of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and Chardonnay. It's truly unique. 

With young, unoaked Viognier, choose foods that suggest sweetness, but are not really sweet, like a Moroccan tagine of chicken, preserved lemons, and cinnamon, or a yogurt-marinated, Indian-style kebab. If you prefer something less exotic, dishes such as long-braised chicken with forty cloves of garlic and trout stuffed with pine nuts and golden raisins work well. Any preparation which picks up on the fruit flavors and sweet spices of the wine will pair nicely. Other ingredients that work seamlessly with this grape include rich-textured, slow-cooked root vegetables (like squash, turnips, and carrots), pasta and grains (risotto and polenta), oily nuts (especially macadamias and cashews) and richer fish and white meats. 

Finally, Viognier goes well with holiday foods, especially goose, turkey, and honey-glazed ham (even with pineapple and cherries!). So, when I am asked to bring wine for holiday occasions, I often choose Viognier.

Viognier goes especially well with shellfish, as the texture and ripe fruit bring out the basic sweet flavors of quality scallops, crab, or lobster. And bring on the butter and cream, because this wine can both match both in texture and, with its balanced acidity, cut through their richness. 

With aged versions, dishes that incorporate the aforementioned nuts, reconstituted dried fruit, and white meat, rather than seafood or fish, work best. And here's the most amazing discovery: Viognier is magic with a cheese course. Perhaps it’s because, when ripe, the wine implies sweetness, like a dessert wine, or because Viognier has the right texture and acidity. I discovered this match by accident, and I am at a loss to explain it, but do try it sometime!

Wine Style Ingredients Cuisines + Cooking methods
Young, un-oaked Viognier “Sweet” spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
Scallops, crab, or lobster
Butter and cream
Squash, turnips, and carrots
Indian mango chutney, Chinese plum sauce, and a tangy fruit barbecue sauce
Garlic, onions
Savory dishes that suggest sweetness: Moroccan tagine of chicken, preserved lemons, and cinnamon, or a yogurt-marinated, Indian-style kebab, or trout stuffed with pine nuts and golden raisins
Braising or caramelizing to bring out sweetness: braised chicken with forty cloves of garlic
Salty-sweet dishes: satays with peanut sauce
Deep frying: fried chicken
Slow-cooked root vegetables
Curried dishes (not too spicy!)
Avoid: “fishy,” pungent fish (sardines, mackerel), tart sauces (vinaigrette), tart foods (green vegetables, fresh herbs)
Some age, oaked Oily nuts (especially macadamias and cashews)
Dried fruit
White meat, fowl
Cheese course
Roast goose, turkey
Thicker sauces and richly textured dishes with some sweetness and nuttiness: lamb tagine with raisins, almonds

Young, European-Style, Unoaked Viognier 

Wine Profile: earthy, citrusy, peach-accented

Dishes and Ingredients: These wines need dishes with some texture and flavors that imply a little sweetness, such as stews with caramelized onions. Use a “sweeter” citrus, such as an orange (rather than a fresh lemon) to accent.

Young, New World-Style, Unoaked Viognier 

Wine Profile: bright, fruit-forward 

Dishes and Ingredients: These wines pair well with “sweet spices” such as cinnamon and ginger, or a curry mix. Bring on a fruit component in the savory dish, such as a honey-glazed ham. That sweet element also means roasted root vegetables, such as yams, work well.

Aged, Oaked Viognier 

Wine Profile: all are richer, fuller-bodied 

Dishes and Ingredients: With an older wine, let it shine and serve a simpler preparation such as a roast goose or turkey. Again, pair the weight of the wine with the dish, such as a fish stew with a little coconut milk and ginger.

Cooking Methods

Viognier does well with preparations and cooking techniques that bring out sweetness: slow roasting, caramelizing, smoking (which brings out a subtle, sweet edge), and even deep fat frying and low-temperature sautéing in butter. Avoid heavy grilling or blackening, as it takes away from the wine's charm.

Pairing Pointers

Viognier works well: 

  • With full-flavored and rich recipes. With its Chardonnay-like body, Viognier pairs seamlessly with thicker sauces and richly textured dishes. 
  • With combinations of fruit and sweet spice, including items such as Indian mango chutney, Chinese plum sauce, and a tangy fruit barbecue sauce. 
  • By itself. Viognier is a fun and different cocktail wine, one that can match well against salty-sweet appetizers and nosh foods: satays with peanut sauce, a cured-meat assortment, or even bar nuts,
  • With almost all cheeses. When putting out a cheese platter, bring out the Viognier too! 
  • With curried anything! Whether it's Thai, Indian, Malaysian, or Caribbean. As long as the dish isn't overly piquant, this wine pairs effortlessly. 
  • With smoked foods: fish, chicken, duck, even cheese. 
  • With caramelized vegetables and starches, and roasted root vegetables. Baked squash, polenta, and risotto can be mixed and matched into many winning combinations.
  • With holiday fare, including turkey, ham, goose, and duck -- and maybe even the ever popular sweet potatoes with marshmallows! 

Viognier doesn't work: 

  • With lighter fare: the wine requires something to hang on to and match up with, or it will overpower the food. 
  • With foods that are very tart. Avoid serving it with green vegetables, fresh green herbs, olives, capers, endive, and other sharp ingredients. 
  • With sharp sauces: stay away from vinaigrettes and other acid dressings. 
  • With fiery-hot dishes. Being fuller-bodied and more alcoholic, the wine can come off as shot. 
  • With really fishy fish. Especially with a round and fruit-forward Viognier, avoid pungent fish such as sardines, anchovies, mackerel, or Chilean sea bass.