When I embarked upon the idea of importing, propagating, and establishing Rhone varieties in California, Roussanne was probably the most outlandish variety to which I committed. Not only was there none in America, only one producer in the world was labelling and bottling Roussanne as a varietal. During my earliest investigations the stories shared by French growers ranged wildly in content. Gerard Chave blended small amounts in his white Hermitage but claimed by itself, Roussanne wouldn’t last 2 years in bottle. When I asked him about Beaucastel’s Vieille Vigne- a Roussanne that could last decades, he replied “That’s Beaucastel.”
About that same era- some 30 years ago, I visited a fine producer near Tain. He makes excellent Hermitage and routinely one of the best Crozes-Hermitage each year. We started our tasting with a sip of Marsanne- the quality of which left me struggling to conceive any reason he would bother to make this wine. To change the focus of his penetrating stare, I asked if he ever worked with Roussanne. He grunted out several expletives about the problematic Roussanne. He then disappeared into his cellar and came back with a cloudy, unlabelled bottle of murky white wine. It was delicious- richly layered, honeyed, mineral, lemon tinged, exotic stuff. After savoring it in silence I caught his glance and smiled- “Roussanne”. He replied with a simple, “yes.” He went on to explain he made a barrel each year for family and friends. There are legions of whites that one can make for all kinds of commercial reasons, even if the resulting wines are less than compelling, but Roussanne is for people you love.
An exotic mix of honey, petroleum, hazelnut, and lemon zest notes. Roussane pairs better with food than just about any white or red one commonly encounters.
Indigenous fermentation in French barrels, 33% new, bottled unfined and unrefined.