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The Roussanne Grape


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About Roussanne

(Synonyms: Barbin, Bergeron, Courtoisie, Fromental, Fromental jaune, Fromenteal, Fromenteau, Greffon, Greffou, Martin Cot, Petite Rousette, Picotin blanc, Plant de Seyssel, Rabellot, Rabelot, Ramoulette, Rebellot, Rebolot, Remoulette, Roussane, Roussane blanc, Roussanne blanc, Roussette, Rusan Belyi, Rusan Blan.)

Background

Map showing France's Rhône wine region.

Roussanne is a white-wine grape originating in the Rhône Valley of France. It is generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class white-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals lists near the top of the page). It is not commonly bottled as a monovarietal; rather, as is usual practice in the Old World, it is used in named regional blends, typically with Marsenne but also sometimes with Viognier. it is an important contributor to world-famed whites, such as those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and is often the dominant wine in the blend (even up to being all in some places in some years). In blends, it is said to add aromatics, elegance and acidity—the acidity lending such blends the capability to improve with substantial bottle age.

Besides the Rhône, Roussanne is planted in meaningful amounts in Australia, California, and Washington State (it is also grown in Italy, but is a lesser grape there), and is beginning to take hold in Texas as well.

The quality of Roussanne wines in youth is intense aromas, typically of a floral character, but also of fruit and herbs. As the wine ages, an overtone of nuttiness appears (not an uncommon procession for ageworthy white wines).

Factoid: Roussanne is one of those wines that are widely believed to experience a "dumb period" in its bottle development: a stage wherin it is "closed" and unyielding. That stage, for Roussanne, seems to lie between 3 or 4 years of age on to 7 or 8 years of age. (Drink early, or wait a good while.)


Some Descriptions of Roussanne Wines


Some Roussannes to Try

(About this list.)

Though monovarietal bottlings of Roussanne are far fewer than blends containing it, we were readily able to come up with a good spectrum of possibilities from a variety of locales. (Probably because Roussanne is not well known in the U.S., some samples have little press.)

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Line Shack Roussanne
(San Antonio Valley - Monterey, U.S.A.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

This is 100 percent roussanne from San Antonio--no, not Texas, but the new American Viticultural Area in California. This wine offers rich aromas of peach and dried apricot on the nose. Balance is the key in this yin and yang of wine, where ripe honeydew melon and peach flavors meld perfectly with the tart citrus and green apple. An enchanting take on the grape.

The grapes in this wine are sourced from vineyards located in a high mountain valley within the Southern portion of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. There the grapes have enjoyed a season of warm days and cool nights before being hand-harvested and whole-cluster pressed. The wine spent 8 months in neutral French oak barrels prior to being released. This allowed the blend to come together without imparting any significant oak flavors. Roussanne is altogether different and hard to describe. It has the body of a typical rich Californian Chardonnay, but displays no butter or toasty oak. The fruit flavors are herbal and tropical and the wine finishes long. If you have never had a Roussanne this is a great introduction.

A freshly mango and peach scented wine. Straw-colored with a full body reminiscent of chardonnay and has a certain creaminess that would be good with garlicky food.

A fresh, slightly dry Roussanne exuding apricot, honey and baked pear aromas, which give way to a palate showing nice minerality and crisp acidity.



Château du Trignon Roussanne
(Côtes du Rhone, France)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Among the wines made at the latter property is the tremendously refreshing and downright pretty Chateau du Trignon Roussanne 2009, Côtes du Rhône. Made completely from roussanne grapes, this white wine is not exposed to oak, retaining all the liveliness and pert acidity that come from being fashioned in stainless steel tanks. Delicate aromas of peach, pear and apricot are woven with hints of jasmine and camellia, cloves and almonds. The wine is more emphatically ripe in the mouth, with flavors of spiced and macerated peaches and yellow plums highlighted by notes of lime peel, dried thyme and limestone-like minerality. It glides across the tongue with dreamy aplomb. The essence of a delicious and appealing spring and summer wine. Very Good+.

This is what makes wine obsession worthwhile. A beauty, neither heavy or light, it lingers with the claims about Roussanne we love: honey, almonds, lavender and elegance. I store this with my collectibles. We’re finishing our second case. It gets better in the glass, tastier as the bottles evaporates. This hails from its native soil, the southern Rhone, near Gigondas. Typically one gets blends from France, because growers detest this grape; not because it’s hard to grow, but because it ripens so unevenly. I mean, who wants to go through all that effort for a $15 wine? Nothing under $20 tastes better.

♣ Wine Advocate (November 2013), 89 points.

♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 88 points.

It’s unusual to find 100% Roussanne wines, but this is a terrific example at a realistic price. It’s broad and mouth-coating but still seems fresh, with melon, pear and pineapple flavors that linger on the tightly focused finish. Drink over the next year or two. 90 points

2011 (2½ *): lime and nut airs, dried fruits, a smoky pear fruit. Attractive, squeezy, aromatic fruit led by apricot on the palate; builds up a gradual glow. It has a white fruit jam, pebbly grain late stage. 2010 (3 *): very pale. There is a bonny spread of fruit across the nose which shows some white jam and gras, a spot of opulence – this is a good example of Roussanne. The palate is stylish, travels well; there is fennel in its flavour, good bite, also licorice. There is more grip on the palate than the nose suggests. The finish is decisive, with discreet weight there, spice and herb notes. Versatile with food, cold meats, smoked fish, salads. 2009 (2½ *): white fruit, jam fruit aroma. The attack shows an evolution, with a compact run along the palate. It ends on smoke and vanilla, is on song now.

This deep yet bright Roussanne comes from the Quiot family in France’s Cotes du Rhone. It’s young yet and will still develop over time (though it’s completely made in stainless steel, no oak). Fresh, full white flowers with touches of green grape and camellia. Pleasant indeed.



Steele "Writer's Block" Roussanne
(Lake County, U.S.A.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Golden yellow in color with aromas of pear, honey, green tea and oak toast. Rich and oily in the mouth with green apple, orange and butterscotch flavors finishing with a nutty note and good acidity. A well made Roussanne that will continue to be interesting for some time to come. A great value…

Pale greenish-gold in the glass, this wine smells of melon and spiced baked apple. In the mouth it is juicy, bright and delicious, with apple and mineral flavors, and a spicy woodiness that is quite compelling. Great balance, excellent food wine. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

This particular Roussanne is a delight of aromas. This wine transported me to the social hour potluck after congregation of a country Lutheran church because it smelled distinctly of my first Waldorf salad. All the ingredients seem to be present on the nose: apple, cream, walnut and of course, grapes. The minerality is quite intense though, so it is almost like someone spilled their salad on the sidewalk. The body is full with an oily viscosity balanced well with a fair amount of acid. The wine is dry and I would say a bit bitter on the finish which some may dislike but I find it pairs well with food and my disposition…It sees 20% new Hungarian oak and 8 months of age before release. The malolactic fermentation is arrested so the wine is a bright contrast to the viscous mouthfeel.

Smooth and creamy with lush texture and ripe vanilla and aromatics; rich, balanced and juicy. 88 points.

The Writer’s Block was fermented and aged for a minimum of eight months in oak, including Hungarian oak that gives spice and richness to the wine. This is an aromatic wine that tastes of apricots and pears with some herbal and mint flavors.

Aromas of pears, peaches, and melons mingle with suggestions of white blossoms and baking spices on the nose. Flavors of peach, honeydew, and pear unfold into elements of spring flowers and Asian spice on the palate. A round and floral white…89 points.



J. Scott Cellars Roussanne
(Columbia Valley, U.S.A.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Using grapes from both sides of the Columbia, winemaker Jonathan Oberlander has crafted a flavorful and beautifully balanced wine that mingles quince, lime, citrus rind and a hint of herb. All stainless and no malolactic fermentation—just pure fruit and clean acids. 89 points.

[J. Scott Cellars] gorgeous roussanne will leave you wondering how you’ve not previously discovered this splendid white grape varietal. An exotic wine with heavenly aromatics, try it and you’ll become hooked (don’t say I didn’t warn you).

The Roussanne (a gold medal winner) is an incredible dry white with gentle aromatics and very easy to drink.

I recently drank a wine made with 100% roussanne for the first time and adored it. It seemed to bring out more of the terroir we have talked about before, than some of the other white wine varietals I have tried. It struck me as a grape that makes a very frenchie wine…The 100% roussanne stunned me at first, as I know it to usually be blended with other varietals, but I really fell for it. It is made by a small operation in Oregon, actually…J. Scott Cellars…

Some fine [Rhone-style] whites: J. Scott Roussanne, any vintage, all excellent (about $18), floral without being flabby.



Novelty Hill "Novelty Hill Roussanne" Roussanne
(Columbia Valley, U.S.A.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Here’s a tasty winter white wine for you. Produced by Washington winemaker Mike Januik, this white Rhone grape varietal has quickly become one of my favorite. Add Januik’s winemaking touch and you’ve got a winner. . . At first whiff you could be inclined to think you’re about to try a chardonnay, but don’t let the nose or warm yellow color fool you. . . The finish at first left the impression of white grape juice, but the more I let it linger the more I noticed the sweet honeysuckle notes. I also tasted peaches and pear. . . What I like about this wine is it provides crisp citrus notes, but also a medium body that gives some weight to the wine. The wine is aged sur lie for 10 months (which means the discarded yeast cells during fermentation stay in the juice, giving it a rounded mouth) and barrel fermented in neutral French oak. Only a small number of cases were produced, meaning some good TLC went into making this wine.

There is a strong underpinning of mineral in this wine, supporting crisply defined flavors of melon, pineapple and citrus peel. A medium-ripe, medium-weight, supremely well-crafted and balanced Roussanne. 88 points

♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown, 2008 vintage), 90 points

♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown, 2006 vintage), 90 points

The nose is marked by mineral and floral notes. There is an almost spicy quality to both the nose and taste. The taste is smooth and opulent. Some oak shows through on the nose and mid-palate as the wine warms up a little.

Vibrant and expressive with wild honeysuckle, juicy melon and fresh citrus aromas and flavors that linger across a lengthy, refreshing finish. From Novelty Hill’s family-owned vineyard.

This bright yellow-gold Rhone varietal is from Novelty Hill's estate vineyard, Stillwater Creek, which is gaining notoriety [sic] for producing fruit with balanced acidity and loads of flavor. Fresh lime and banana cream pie flavors make this unique dry white a lovely aperitif or a good pairing with light foods.

Broadly appealing flavors of melon, white peach and pineapple are round and full, supported with sweet, spicy barrel flavors.

Very pale yellow color. Exceptionally complex floral nose with white nectarine, and on the palate, green gauge plums, green grapes (imagine that!) and pineapple are balanced by sweet cream. We opened a bottle on Sunday night when it showed well, and finished the last three inches last night when it showed even better. It's a quietly powerful, well-made wine that speaks to exactly what it is--it is most definitely not chardonnay or viognier or any other white grape, and you can taste every penny of its [price]. As such, it's unique within the pantheon of Washington white wines, and I just put in an order for six more bottles to tide us over the winter.



Truchard Roussanne
(Carneros, U.S.A.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Every bit as compelling as well-made Chardonnay, that Roussane remains under the radar to 98% of consumers means more accessibility for those in the know. As this example proves, this Northern Rhone white variety has the depth, character, and potential for seriousness which make it worthy of your attention. And thanks to its California provenance, Truchard's Roussanne possesses all the funk of its French cousins plus a strong, forward presence that makes it even more broadly appealing. Delicious and thought-provoking. I've been thinking about this wine since.

Rich flavors of green apple, honeydew melon and lychee are balanced by sweet aromas of nectarine, pears and pineapple all brought together with a citrus-mineral acidity which makes for an unctuous yet clean bright palate.

In the winery, Roussanne can become unbalanced if the alcohol levels and acidity aren’t kept in check. But if the stars align and the winemaker is vigilant, Roussanne produces a very aromatic and elegant wine. And that’s how I would describe the Truchard 2012 Roussanne. . . Thanks to a partial malolactic fermentation, the mouthfeel was creamy but not overpowering with ample acidity. Aromas of floral honeysuckle, cinnamon and baked goods were followed by flavors of white fruits, citrus and spice. The first bottle had a hint of quince and my wife said it burned her nose, however, I suspect that could have been a bit of reduction or an off flavor due to a slight amount of TCA from the first [slightly corked] sample. . . The second bottle of this same wine had no cork taint and had a more defined spicy complexity with fresher, more vibrant flavors.

A bunch of people on Facebook asked me to talk to Anthony about the Roussanne, in my estimation Truchard’s most distinctive wine and certainly an unlikely player in Napa. . . To start, the wine was only for their [own] consumption, until the tasting room staff ran out of Chardonnay and in a genius move poured Roussanne instead. That move set off a wave of excitement and the winery now has a reputation for this amazing grape up and down Napa Valley. . . The wine was like pineapple, apricot, and honey ([the winemaker] said that even on the dry wine, sometimes grapes with botrytis get thrown in, giving a little honeyed note to it). On a second whiff, WOW! I got parsley, celery, and fresh garden herb smells. From the oak, there was a little sawed wood and baked cinnamon flavor too. Taste: Just as complex as the smell, but in a different way. Canteloupe, pineapple, and lemon cookie dominated at first but after I swallowed it was just like a Score or Heath bar without the chocolate — tons of toffee flavor. There was a touch of vanilla and popcorn too. I could sense the oak tannin a little bit in the wine — playing off the rich, waxy flavor (weird description, I know. Think wax lips from when you were little or when you put Chapstick on and a little gets in your mouth), was a tiny hit of bitterness. (BTW — I know all these descriptions sound ridiculous, but if you try this wine, I think you’ll get it immediately). . . This is a great wine. One of my favorite white wines out of California, by far. It’s got a ton of complexity — there’s so much to think about when you taste this wine. *Note: . . this wine has to be served a little warmer (not right out of the fridge) to taste amazing. Make sure it’s not ice cold . . Tastes totally different at a warmer temperature.

This light yellow colored Roussanne opens with a honey and pear like bouquet with a hint of apple. On the palate, this wine is full bodied, ripe and shows some sweetness. The flavor profile is a honeyed pear with notes of apple and apricot. The finish is semi-dry and its flavors linger for quite a while.

The nose was very light, sweet with honey, ripe pear, and cherry blossom. The nose, however, was a bit deceptive. The sweetness was noticed first on the tip of the tongue, but immediately overpowered by a wonderfully balanced crisp and slightly acidic finish. The lingering finish returned the ripe pear and honey, and also made the light effervescence noticeable. I don’t know if the effervescence was natural or added, but it was the perfect addition to the wine. . . and when the bottle was empty, I was left wishing for more.

The Truchard Roussanne is a fairly dry wine. The nose is light apple, with a full bodied, well-balanced green apple and lemon on palate. It has good acid balanced with a little vanilla and a hint of butter butter, making it smooth but layered. It is something of a Chardonny or Sauvignon Blanc alternative. Both of us liked it a lot.

This Roussanne is wonderfully aromatic, with lots of peach pit, honeysuckle, and pineapple. It’s exotic in the way that Viognier is. The palate carries forth all of those great fruit flavors, but is made more complex by the delicate smokiness, soft vanilla, and buttery notes. It is not bone dry, but the residual sugar is well-balanced by the lively acidity. The fairly high alcohol (14.1%), acidity, and slight sweetness make this a full-bodied wine. Very enjoyable!

This Carneros is a medium gold in the glass has a pronounced tropical fruit and pineapple that smells "old world." Underneath the forward grangrances there is subtle peach. Palate--This wine has a sharp acidity, is off dry with solid tropical fruit flavors.



For a Splurge

Not a few people would suggest the Stolpman Vineyards "L'Avion" (but not the pricier "Single Barrel" bottling).

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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