A venerable old white wine grape from the northern Rhône valley, Roussanne suffered in terms of acreage lost after the ravages of phylloxera as many growers chose not to replant it, opting for the much easier to grow Marsanne. But in the 1980s, improvements in viticulture and the growing success of the vine in the southern Rhône spurred many vignerons to try growing it again. The reason was obvious: Marsanne, its traditional blending partner in top Rhône whites like Hermitage Blanc, is heavy and less refined and needs more of the superb perfume and acidity of Roussanne to elevate the blend and extend its longevity. Beautifully scented with notes of verbena tea and acacia blossoms, pear and yellow plum fruit, Roussanne has enchanted white winemakers everywhere as its growth as an important variety has taken it around the globe rapidly. First, through the stony, sunkissed terroir of southern France where its propensity to ripen late is seldom a problem and thus to the Santa Barbera vineyards of Californian Rhône Rangers and on to Adelaide and Victoria in Australia where it is often blended with both Marsanne and Viognier. Other outposts of note are the Savoie department of France where it’s known as Bergeron and small but very promising plots in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and even Ontario.


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