There are certain things in life that are just meant to be. People meeting their perfect mate, having that dream job land right in your lap, etc. The same can be said for wine grapes. Some are sort of “meant to be” in certain regions, and others are not. In the case of Texas, Viognier and Trebbiano have taken the state by storm over the last few years, along with Albariño, Vermentino, and a few wineries that are producing some very nice Chardonnays. But what about a wine grape that not only takes well to the rocks of the Texas Hill Country and the red sands of the Texas High Plains, but also a grapevine that bud breaks later than many of the others? The answer is very clear to me, Roussanne!
Pronounced (roose-anne), this white grape totally fits the bill for Texas winemaking, producing powerful, yet seductive wines. The name comes from the French word rousse, meaning red haired woman, which pays homage to the grapes’ reddish-gold skins at harvest. I personally view Roussanne as the tomboy sister to Viognier, providing very similar aromatics and style, but with a bit more tenacity and roughness around the edges. The grape is Vitis Vinifera and is native to the Rhône Valley of France, where it is generally blended with Marsanne. As a varietal wine, Roussanne is capable of producing full-bodied white wines with high alcohol, well-retained acidity, marvelous complexity, and extended cellaring potential. This variety is capable of aging upward of a decade or more if all goes well in the vineyard and the cellar. Speaking of, this grape has earned the nickname “princess” of the vineyard because it tends to be fairly high maintenance. Even in perfect growing conditions, she tends to be finicky and can be a handful if not cared for properly. I think it may have had a chat with the Pinot Noir grape sometime in its French history, and they both decided to take an oath to be difficult on the vine. However, in the right hands, Roussanne can be a downright beauty of a wine.
Roussanne in Texas:
Famed Texas winemaker Bénédicte Rhyne proposed to veteran High Plains grower Bobby Cox that Roussanne and Marsanne should do very well in Texas, and that they should be planted there. He suggested the same to John Oswald (a grape grower in the Texas High Plains) and the rest is history. Thanks to Bénédicte, Bobby Cox, and John Oswald, we now have a multitude of vineyards planted to the berry in Texas. John Oswald in particular, is known for some of the best Roussanne grapes in the state.
Here are some of the Texas vineyards growing the Rhône Princess:
- Bending Branch Winery – Texas Hill Country
- Bingham Family Vineyards – Texas High Plains
- Blue Mountain Trail Vineyard – Fort Davis
- Brushy Creek Vineyards – Alvord
- Burch Family Vineyards – Texas High Plains
- Cherokee Creek Vineyard – Texas Hill Country
- Eperon Vineyard – Canadian
- Good Vibe Vineyards – Texas Hill Country
- High Valley Vineyard – Texas Hill Country
- J&L Vineyards – Amarillo
- Kuhlman Cellars – Texas Hill Country
- La Pradera Vineyard – Texas High Plains
- Oswald Vineyard – Texas High Plains
- Perissos Vineyard and Winery – Texas Hill Country
- Reddy Vineyards – Texas High Plains
- Rush Creek Vineyards – Mingus
- Farmhouse Vineyards – Texas High Plains
As you can see from the above list, growers and winemakers within the state have already seen (and tasted) the potential for Roussanne as a benchmark white grape in Texas. Keep your eyes peeled for more and more wines coming from your local wineries bearing the name, Roussanne. Just don’t be surprised if the cork pops out and slaps you, in a diva sort of way.
As quoted from Bénédicte Rhyne: “La Roussanne is definitely a female grape with a lot of character, and her brother Le Viognier has a lot of charm.”