If you are relatively new to wine—experienced enough to search for alternatives to Chardonnay, not ready for big, bold reds—suggestion: Viognier.

Viognier is voluptuous fruit salad on the palate. Peach, pear, lime, citrus, and apple are common descriptions. Thanks to high sugar, add high alcohol—13.5 percent and more.

Down side: Viognier sometimes only flirts with your nose and must be harvested at exactly the right time to achieve full potential.

Another downside. Viognier? How do you pronounce that? Answer mocks English phonics: “Vee-ohn-yay.” Doesn’t track with anything you learned in school, a negative to insecure wine drinkers. Imagine French sommelier (wine waiter) sniffing, “You mean vee-ohn-yay, madam? Do you prefer it in a wineglass or jelly jar?”

A rising star since the 1990s, Viognier pairs well with lobster, spicy Asian Infusion, outspoken cheeses. Pour at your summer afternoon wine & cheese party when you want to sweeten the palate and elevate the mood. Enjoy the applause. Pre-position designated drivers.

The only grape allowed in France’s Northern Rhone Condrieu appellation, Viognier also succeeds in Australia’s Yalumba Valley, California, and South Africa. Because it enjoys hot climates, the grape is a major Texas play—many believe it will become the state’s signature white wine grape. Loves hot weather, achieves high alcohol—yee haw!

Vee-ohn-yay: practice pronunciation to impress friends, confound snooty sommeliers, and prove you are a true Texan.


• Brennan Viognier. Peaches and honey from top Texas winery. $22

• Yalumba Viognier Y Series. Citrus, tropical fruit; Australia. $11

• McManis Viognier. Lemon-lime, golden apple, spicy; California. $12