the southern Rhone appellation of Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC
it is one of six white grapes allowed, along with Grenache
blanc, Piquepoul blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Picardan.
The Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation also allows it to be
blended into red wines. The grape is also planted in various
wine-growing regions of the New World, such as California,
Washington, and Australia as well as the European regions
such as Tuscany and Spain. The berries are distinguished
by their russet color when ripe roux is French for
the reddish brown color russet, and is probably the
root for the variety's name. The aroma of Roussanne is often
reminiscent of a flowery herbal tea. In warm climates, it
produces wines of richness, with flavors of honey and pear,
and full body. In cooler climates it is more floral and
more delicate, with higher acidity. In many regions, it
is a difficult variety to grow, with vulnerability to mildew,
poor resistance to drought and wind, late and/or uneven
ripening, and irregular yields.
likely that Roussanne originated in the northern Rhone where
it is today an important component in the wines of Crozes-Hermitage,
Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and the Saint-Paray AOC where it
is used for both still and sparkling wine production. In
recent years plantings of Roussanne have declined as Marsanne
gains more of a foothold in the northern Rhone due to its
high productivity and ease in cultivation. In the southern
Rhone, Roussanne is a primary component in the white wines
of Chateauneuf-du-Pape where it can compose as much as 80-100%
of the wine. It can also be found in some white wines from
the Cotes du Rhone AOC.
Outside of the Rhone, the Roussanne is grown in Provence
and the Languedoc-Roussillon region where it is sometimes
blended with Chardonnay, Marsanne and Vermentino in some
vin de pays. In Savoie, the grape is known as Bergeron
where it produces highly aromatic wines in Chignin.
of France it is grown in the Italian wine regions of Liguria
and Tuscany where it is a permitted grape in Montecarlo
bianco. In Australia, it was believed to have been brought
to the continent to be blended with Shiraz. Documents dating
as far back as 1882 have noted the presence of Roussanne
plantings in Victoria.
Today it is used both as a blending grape and as a varietal
wine. In California, it is widely planted in the Central
Coast AVA and the northern region of Yuba County.
In Washington State, the first experimental plantings of
Roussanne were planted by White Heron Cellars in 1990. In
recent years, plantings have increased as more Washington
winemakers experiment with Rhone varietals with grapes from
Ciel du Cheval, Alder Ridge and Destiny Ridge. Washington
Roussanne is often blended with Viognier and is characterized
by its fruit salad profile of notes that range from apple,
lime, peach and citrus to cream and honey. Recent plantings
on the high plains of west Texas have shown great promise
even in its dry, windy climate 3000 ft above sea level.
California Roussanne/Viognier controversy
California winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard
smuggled cuttings of Roussanne that he reportedly got from
a vineyard in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Under California regulations,
vines from outside the state are quarantined for a lengthy
period which includes inspection for grape diseases and
ampelographical identification at University of California,
Davis. Grahm imported his cuttings in his suitcase and planted
them at his vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains where he
begun making a Rhone style blend with Marsanne. In 1994,
Grahm sold some of his Roussanne cuttings to Sonoma Grapevine,
one of the largest nurseries in the state, who began to
propagate the vines and sell them to wineries and other
nurseries which spread these Roussanne vines across the
state. One of the wineries that bought these cuttings was
the California cult winery, Caymus Vineyards, who planted
them in their Monterey vineyards. In 1998, John Alban of
Alban Vineyards was visiting Caymus and noted that the Roussanne
plantings looked more like Viognier than Roussanne.
Samples were sent for DNA analysis and the result proved
that the plantings were indeed Viognier as were all the
vines that came from Grahm's original "Roussanne" vineyard.
Roussanne vine ripens late and is characterized by its irregular
yields that can be decreased further due to poor wind resistance.
The vine is also susceptible to powdery mildew and rot which
makes it a difficult vine to cultivate. In recent years,
the development of better clones has alleviated some of
The grape prefers a long growing season but should be harvested
before the potential alcohol reaches 14% which would result
in the finished wine being out of balance. If picked too
soon, the grape can suffer from high acidity. During winemaking,
Roussanne is prone to oxidation without care taken by the
winemaker. The wine can benefit from a controlled use of
oak. In blends, Roussanne adds aromatics, elegance and acidity
with the potential to age and further develop in the bottle.
made from Roussanne are characterized by their intense aromatics
which can include notes of herbal tea.
In its youth it shows more floral, herbal and fruit notes,
such as pears that become more nutty as the wine ages. Roussanne
from the Savoy region is marked by their pepper and herbal
notes. Wine expert Oz Clarke notes that Roussanne wine and
Roussanne dominate blends can drink very well in first 3
to 4 years of their youth before entering a "dumb phase"
where the wine is closed aromatically until the wine reaches
7 or 8 years when the wine develops more complexity and