With its origins in the Northern Rhone area of France, Roussanne is a well-known and prized white wine grape, often interlinked with Marsanne, its partner throughout Rhone. Mostly inseparable, these two are often grown and blended together, which is the hallmark of wines from this area. However, growers from around the world have begun to cultivate Roussanne for its flavor complexity while ignoring how hard it is to grow. Low yields and fruit rot plague this breed, but growers who succeed are rewarded with a tasty result. Today, you can find Roussanne throughout the United States, Spain and Australia.
Unlike most of the greenish and lighter hues of white wine grapes, Roussanne is ready for harvest when it hits a reddish-brown russet color. Warm-climate Roussanne wines are fuller-bodied and fruitier, while cold-climate versions are more floral and acidic. What separates Roussanne from many other wines is its drinkability. This wine is typically at its best within one to two years after production. If you miss that window, you're in for the long haul. Most Roussanne wines lose their flavor and aroma profile around that time, and you'll be left waiting 15 to 20 years for its return.
Describing the taste of Roussanne is an arduous task, as the grape is particularly susceptible to the amount of sunlight it receives during the peak ripening season. At times, Roussanne is a diabolical madman, experimenting with several types of flavors within one bottle. However, if one had to describe it, the aroma would be strongly floral and herbal, while the tastes range from pear and peach to something more exotic such as mango, pineapple or papaya.
In its finest state, Roussanne is enjoyable at room temperature, but a bit of chill won't hurt its texture or flavors. Pair with seafood pasta or fresh, white fish for a flavorful meal, or try Roussanne with bouillabaisse (fish stew) for a traditional French option.
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