Roussanne is a white wine grape variety grown originally in the Rhone region of France. Other names of Roussanne are Barbin, Rebelot, Bergeron, Greffou, and Picotin Blanc. Today, Roussanne is an important component in the wines of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, and Saint-Joseph. It can also be found in the white wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and in some white wines from the Cotes du Rhone AOC. There are plantings of Roussanne in a few other French regions besides Rhone, as well as in Italy, Australia, California and some experimental plantings can be found in Washington State.
The Roussanne grapes require a long growing season and ripen late. In case the grapes are picked too early, the wine produced from them can turn out to be very acidic. Roussanne is best suited for warm sunny climates with sufficient sunlight. The Roussanne vine is characterized by irregular yields. It is a difficult variety to grow, since it is vulnerable to mildew and rot, and has poor resistance to wind and drought. Besides, oxidation can affect the quality of the resulting wine.
Due to the unique combination of richness, minerality and balancing acids, Roussanne tends to age very well and benefits from barrel fermentation and aging in oak. Many Roussanne wines and blends can be enjoyed after over a decade after bottling.
The wine can be aged in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks, and depending on the method used for aging the wine, the qualities of wine, its aroma and taste, will be different. Oak aging makes the wine rich, and enhances excellent texture of the wine. Stainless steel tanks tend to bring out the floral tones and minerals of the wine.
Good examples of Roussanne wines as stand-alone varietals are elegant, complex, displaying good acidic balance. The characteristic flavors are those of melon, pears, sweet white fruit, tree blossoms and herbs. Roussanne wines are not as fruity as other white wines. The aroma of Roussanne suggests a flowery herbal tea.
As such wines age, they may also develop the flavors of honey, coffee, and almonds. However, Roussanne is not often bottled as a stand-alone varietal in Europe, as on its own it can sometimes be rather tart and not very rich.
If you want to drink the Roussanne wine young, the best time may be when the wine has aged for 3 to 5 years. The thing is that after 5 years, Roussanne seems to be in a dormant stage, which means that it doesn’t taste very well. The wine will take on the characteristics typical of an aged wine only after about 7 years. So, it is worth waiting if you are after aged Roussanne.
More often Roussanne is blended with Marsanne, especially in the Rhone region. In other areas Roussanne is blended with Chardonnay. Used in blends, Roussanne tends to add acidity, elegance and aromaticity to the wine, as well as good potential to age and develop in the bottle. Wines made from Roussanne have intense aromas, usually featuring herbal tea notes.
Grown in cooler climates, Roussanne wines are light, delicate and more acidic, having distinct floral aromas. In warm climates, Roussanne wines are full-bodied and rich, characterized by aromas of pears and honey.
Roussanne wine pairs well with many types of seafood: shellfish dishes, oysters. It also goes well with cheeses, bacon, chicken, smoked fish, potato salad, Caesar salad, etc. The recommended serving temperature for Roussanne wines is 50º-55º F.