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Carl Hudson
March 15, 2017 | Wine Varietals | Carl Hudson

Roussanne – Richness from the Mediterranean

Roussanne (roos-ahn or roos-ann) is believed to be native to the Rhône Valley near the Mediterranean Sea in Southern France.  Although most of the world’s Roussanne is today grown in the Rhône Valley, other regions, especially Texas, are beginning to show interest in the variety.  In the Southern Rhône, Roussanne is one of six white grape varieties permitted in the famous wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (blanc & rouge).  It is often blended with Grenache Blanc, which adds richness and crisp acidity to Roussanne’s pear and honey flavors.  In the Northern Rhône, Roussanne is frequently blended with Marsanne to provide acidity, minerality and richness.  Limited plantings have been made in Australia, Italy, and the U.S., particularly in CA’s Central Coast, WA’s Yakima Valley and Texas. 

When ripe, Roussanne grapes typically have a russet color – called roux in French, which is probably the root for the grape’s name.  The aroma of Roussanne is often reminiscent of a flowery herbal tea coupled with rich flavors of honey and pear from warmer climates, and delicate floral notes with citrusy notes from cooler climates. 

If Roussanne has a downside, it is a reputation of being difficult to grow due to susceptibility to powdery mildew and rot.  Growers must pay strict attention to the vines and manage these problems with a systematic spray program.  Other issues include late and uneven ripening, irregular yields and sensitivity to drought conditions during which vines tend to shut down, resulting in shatter – grapes falling off of clusters.  Growers, in most regions, are thus required to focus on the vineyard’s moisture requirements and irrigate appropriately (certainly nothing new in Texas).  A long, warm growing season is required to reach higher ripeness levels with about 13.5-14% ABV potential when the grapes makes the best wines.  Roussanne takes well to oak treatment in the winery, thus allowing these wines, in many instances, to sort of take the place of chardonnay in the Texas wine market.  In blends, Roussanne can add aromatics, elegance and acidity with the potential to age and develop in the bottle. 

Wines made from Roussanne are typically rich and complex, with distinct honey, floral and apricot flavors. They have a characteristic oily texture and a full body that is more reminisicent of red wines than whites.  Roussanne is often blended with Viognier, noted for its fruit salad and floral characteristics, to give wines with a wide range of aromas and flavors - apples, peach, apricot, citrus, cream and honey.  Roussanne has a honeyed richness when bottled as a varietal and, for a white wine, can have excellent longevity. 

Many of the growers for 4.0 Cellars have Roussanne vines, and all the winemakers for 4.0 Cellars produce Roussanne wines or use the grape in blends.  Visit the 4.0 Cellars Tasting Room to try a Roussanne wine, and purchase a bottle or two to enjoy as our spring weather continues to warm.  Or, visit our website (www.fourpointwine.com) to order Roussanne for your spring picnics to enjoy what promises to be a bountiful and beautiful wildflower season in the Texas Hill Country. 


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