Roussanne is probably a grape that you haven’t heard too much about. You won’t find it on every wine list or see it in every tasting room up go into. But when you do find it you should definitely check it out. Roussanne is a wholly under appreciated grape and when done well it is rich and honeyed and bright all at the same time.
Roussanne is originally a Northern Rhone varietal grown in the appellations of St. Joseph, Hermitage and Croze-Hermitage. But even in its home it is not widely planted and rarely made into a wine that is 100% Roussanne, more often than not it is part of a blend most typically with Marsanne. Roussanne’s job is to add complexity to the slightly simpler Marsanne, which it does well. But for some reason it most often Marsanne that is the prominent grape in the blend.
So what’s the deal? If I am trying to convince you that this is a wine you should be drinking why is it a wine that no one is really making? Well, turns out Roussanne is a very persnickety little grape when it comes to actually trying to make wine out of it. It is difficult to ripen on the vine and highly prone to oxidization, which means great care must be taken with it in the winery. These difficulties account for a good amount of Roussanne’s decline in France.
Luckily though you can still find some great examples of Roussanne in France and many winemakers in America are starting to make the varietal as well. Which is lucky because this grape, difficult and finicky as it may be to grow, can be made into some really excellent wine. The best examples of this wine are rich and silky and incredibly balanced with aromas of white cherries, chamomile tea, fresh herbs and exotic spices. In fact, Roussanne can be very similar to Viognier when it comes to their intoxicating aromas, their ability to pair with food, and in their relative obscurity.
Roussanne is awesome with thick and creamy soups, with roasted root vegetables, rich cream and butter basted pastas, and a whole range of grains. It matches really well with richer shellfish like lobster, crab and scallops. It also goes exceedingly well with lots of holiday dishes including turkey and would be lovely with a honey-glazed ham. In keeping with those exotic, lush aromas it is a prefect match to some more exotic foods from Thai curries to Indonesian satays.
And most of all it is incredibly lovely all on its own. So next time you run into a bottle of this wine take a chance, and indulge in a glass.