Roussanne is a white Rhone varietal that rarely appears alone. In northern Rhone it prefers the company of its friend Marsanne; in southern Rhone, it’s one of the six white grapes legally permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
In California, it makes frequent appearances paired with Viognier, and you might find it in blends in such far flung locals as Australia, Tuscany, and Crete as well.
Young Roussanne shows lots of fruity, herbal, and fresh floral notes, but time mellows the varietal, bringing out a certain depth and nuttiness. In our opinion, it’s not a matter of drinking wines young or old, but rather sampling them at both opportunities in order to witness the evolution. Drinking Roussanne, especially from France, is a brilliant way to do just that.
Here’s our Top 5, all either pure Roussanne or Roussanne dominant, and all from France.
1.Chateau l’Ermitage Cuvée Tradition Blanc, Costières de Nîmes (Rhone), 2013 – $10
The Roussanne in this wine contributes to the racy acidity that makes it so wonderfully food friendly; the richness of the Grenache keeps that bright liveliness from being too sharp. Add to that a whiff of white peach and gardenia and you have a $10 prize.
2.Château du Trignon 2010 Roussanne, Côtes du Rhône, 2010 – $18
100% Roussanne and a classic example of what this single varietal offering can do. There’s definite freshness, with lots of pineapple, pear, and melon, and a round, fatty feel that is infinitely satisfying. It might not age as well as some of its pricier compatriots, but you’ll want to drink your stash sooner rather than later anyways.
3.Château de Nages Joseph Torres Blanc, Costières de Nîmes (Rhone), 2013 – $20
The dominance of Roussanne is evident in this wine’s spritz of citrus, with the 40% split of Marsanne and Viognier contributing layers of spice and toasted nuts, and there’s warmth and minerality from the barrel aging and terroir, too. All in all it’s a hefty amount of complexity for a wine at the $20 price point.
4.Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet White, Hermitage, 2007 – $65
This wine is worth the splurge for two reasons: It’s 100% Roussanne, and it’s been aging since 2007, giving you a lip-smacking opportunity to taste this grape once it’s had a chance to mature. Gone is the first blush of youth and in its place a soft, refined elegance that pairs well with pearls and a fresh blowout.
5.Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhone, 2013 – $120
People expect a lot from a $120 wine, and this blend delivers. The breakdown is as follows: 80% Roussanne, 15% Grenache Blanc, 5% Picardan/Clairette/Bourboulenc. To the untrained it could seem like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, but the crew at Beaucastel are anything but bumbling. There is mastery here, from the subtle whiffs of walnut, lime blossom, and ginger to the long, gripping finish that is laden with stone and honeysuckle. This is a wine that impresses, each and every time, no matter who is lucky enough to drink it.
*Vintage availability dependent on vendors. In most cases, descriptions are applicable for most vintages. Wines are chosen based on quality, availability, and consistency, so our readers can actually drink the wines we recommend.