Roussanne, like Ulysses to the sirens, lures in winemakers with it’s beautiful perfume aromas, complex depth, and rich qualities. Though often maddening to grow, the mystery and ambiguity of the wine is irresistible and undeniable.
Roussanne is a white wine grape, one of the 6 white varietals allowed to be grown and produced in the Rhône wine region. It’s name comes from the reddish gold pigment of the grape, equating to the French word roux, which means “russet” (reddish-brown).
The grape benefits from the longer sunlight hours and warmer temperatures of the southern Rhône, where it is most commonly found. Roussanne can be a particularly finicky grape to grow; in cooler climates, the grape tends towards irregular yields, uneven and late ripening, and can be easily susceptible to powdery mildew and rot, as well as wind damage.
Roussanne, though difficult to grow, is propagated for its unique aromas and bright acidity, which make for excellent blending qualities. Not overly fruity, the aromas range from stone fruits, to herbal notes, to wild flowers. Roussanne can have nutty, honey, pear and overall perfumey characteristics on the palate, with silky, rich, oily textures. Due to the uneven ripening, flavors can range in the glass, making Roussanne continually interesting and difficult to pinpoint. Roussanne based wines are best drunk early, within the first few years of bottling, or after having been cellared for 15-20 years.
Roussanne is typically blended with Marsanne, especially in the northern Rhône. Marsanne adds sweet and rich characteristics to a wine, perfect for balancing the elegant acids and unique aromas of Roussanne.
In exciting Roussanne-related news, the girl & the fig has recently released the 2018 Sonoma Roadside Mendocino Roussanne. This wine is coming from the Bonfiglio Vineyard, located on the banks of the Russian River in Mendocino County, surrounded by oaks, madrones, and elderberry trees, as well as sites great for mushroom foraging. 2018 was an excellent growing year, with consistent weather that made for slow and steady ripening. The Sonoma Roadside Roussanne is a well balanced wine with a viscous texture and maintained freshness, with notes of grapefruit, florals, and candied citrus on the nose. The palate is rich and lush, with an uplifting acidity that leads to a bright finish, leaving notes of stone fruits.