Roussanne is a white wine grape varietal originally grown in the northern Rhône wine region of France, where it is often blended with Marsanne. It is the only other white variety, besides Marsanne, allowed in the northern Rhône appellations of Crozes-Hermitage AOC, Hermitage AOC and Saint-Joseph AOC. In the southern Rhône appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC it is one of six white grapes allowed, along with Grenache Blanc, Piquepoul Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Picardan. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation also allows Roussanne to be blended into red wines.
The grape is also planted in various wine-growing regions around the world, such as California, Washington, and Australia as well as European regions such as Crete, Tuscany and Spain. In Australia, it was believed to have been brought to the country to be blended with Shiraz, records dating back to 1882 have noted the presence of Roussanne plantings in Victoria.
The grape berries are distinguished by their russet colour when ripe - roux is French for the reddish brown colour russet, and is probably the origin for the variety's name. In warm climates, it produces wines of richness, with flavours of honey and pear, and full bodied. 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 uneven rbunch ipening, and irregular yields.
The Roussanne grape prefers a long growing season but should be harvested before the potential alcohol reaches 14% which can result in a finished wine being out of balance, the wine can also benefit from controlled use of oak.
Wines made from Roussanne are characterized by their intense aromatics which can include pepper and herbal notes. In its youth it shows more floral, herbal and fruit notes, such as pear, which become more nutty as the wine ages. Roussanne wines and Roussanne dominated blends can show well in the first 3 to 4 years of their youth before entering a ‘quiet phase’ where the wine is closed aromatically until the wine reaches 7 or 8 years, when it develops more complexity and depth.