The origin of the Viognier grape is unknown. Viognier is presumed to be an ancient grape, possibly originating in Dalmatia and then brought to Rhône by the Romans. The origin of the name Viognier is also obscure.
The most common namesake is the French city of Vienne, which was a major Roman outpost. Another legend has it drawing its name from the Roman pronunciation of the via Gehennae, meaning the "Valley of Hell". Probably this is an allusion to the difficulty of growing the grape.
Viognier was once fairly common. Now it is a rare white grape grown almost exclusively in the northern Rhône regions of France. In 1965, the grape was almost extinct when there were only eight acres in Northern Rhône producing just 1 900 liters of wine.