Roussanne is a white grape variety that is thought to have originated in the Rhone wine region in France, where it is often blended with Marsanne. This grape is also planted in various wine-growing regions of the New World, such as Australia, South Africa, and California as well as European regions such as Italy, Spain and Tuscany. 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.
Roussanne is the only other white variety, besides Marsanne, allowed in France's mostly-red-wine-producing northern Rhone appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph. This grape is also one of six grape varieties permitted in the production of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, where it is a primary component of the white wines and can comprise as much as 80-100% of the wine.
This late ripening varietal can be hard to grow, with yields varying from year to year. It is susceptible to powdery mildew and has poor resistance to wind and drought.
In contrast to the difficulties it presents in the vineyard, Roussanne is forgiving and flexible in the cellar. It can be successfully fermented in stainless steel or large or small oak. The grape can be harvested at lower sugars but still retain good body, or can be left to fully ripen without losing all its acidity. It has the body to take to new oak, or stainless steel can emphasize its minerality. Unlike most white wines, Roussanne ages very well due to its unusual combination of balancing acids, richness and minerality, with many Roussanne wines still enjoyed 15 years after bottling.
The aroma of Roussanne is often reminiscent of a flowery herbal tea. In warm climates, it produces rich, full bodied wines, with flavors of pear and honey. In cooler climates it produces wines that are more delicate with floral notes, and higher acidity.
Most of the worlds Roussanne is grown throughout the Rhone, where it is traditionally used as a blending grape. In the Northern Rhone, this grape is frequently blended with Marsanne in the appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and Saint Joseph to provide acidity, minerality and richness. In the Southern Rhone, Roussanne is one of six white grape varietals permitted in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and it is often blended with Grenache Blanc, whose richness and crisp acids help to highlight Roussanne’s pear and honey flavors.
Outside of France Roussanne is also planted in various wine-growing regions of the New World, such as California, South Africa, Australia and Italy, where it is a permitted grape in the production of Montecarlo Bianco wine in Tuscany. The grape can also be found in Spain, Tuscany and Crete. These countries use the grape for blending, and to a lesser extent for the production of varietal wine.
Roussanne wines are dry wines characterized by their intense aromatics which often include notes of herbal tea. When young these wines tend to show more floral, herbal fruit notes such as pear, which tend to become more nutty as the wine ages. Cool climate Roussanne, such as those grown in Southern Rhone, tends to be medium bodied, with medium acidity, while those grown in warm climates such as Australia and California are more full bodied with low to medium acidity. These wines pair well with Fish, Shellfish, chicken and pork.