As usual, we had a great turnout for our GOTN, to my surprise as we did our first white wine grape. I was very excited to see that there was a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity from the members of the group that normally would not venture outside of reds, myself included. Though Roussanne grapes originated in the Rhone Valley of France, I found it quite interesting that only one example was brought from the Southern Rhone Valley. The rest were from Santa Ynez Valley and Paso Robles both in California. These two areas of California are very successful at growing Rhone varietals, both white and red. Roussanne grapes are grown in the United States (California and Washington) , Australia and Europe (Tuscany and Spain).
The name comes from the French word roux which means russet. This name is derived from the color of the grapes at harvest which have a reddish gold skin color. Roussanne in France is quite often blended with Marsanne. In the Northern Rhone appellations of Crozes-Hermatage AOC, Hermatage AOC and Saint-Joseph AOC, Roussanne and Marsanne are the only two white varietals. Now the curve ball, Roussanne can be blended into the red wines in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation. The blending of white wines into reds adds to the aromatics and crispness of the wine. In white Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines, Roussanne can be as high as 80-100% of the wine.
So what are the characteristics of the Roussanne wines? The aromatics have been described as that of herbal tea. Young Roussannes are generally very floral and herbal with notes of fruits such as pears and apricots. Sometimes a honey characteristic can be found. Aged Roussannes can be found to take on a nutty flavor. French oak provides a structured richness and enhances the rich texture of the grape while stainless steel increases the minerality and floral aromatics.
There is a very unique characteristic that occurs with Roussannes that are cellared. Wine expert Oz Clarke stated, “that Roussanne wine and Roussanne dominated blends can drink very well in the first 3 to 4 years of their youth before entering a “dumb phase” where the wine is closed aromatically until the wine reaches 7 or 8 years when it develops more complexity and depth.” This phenomenon generally occurs in red wines as they transition from young to old where the fruit flavors will decrease and the mature complexities of an older wine will develop. This will be noted by a decrease in fruit and an increase in complexity. I was thrilled at this GOTN that a 2004 and 2007 Qupe were brought to allow us to experience this phenomenon first hand. The 2004 compared to the 2007 showed a huge difference in aromatics. The 2004 displayed almost no aromatics. The 2007 had a lot of aromatics that jumped out of the glass at you. The taste was what one would expect when tasting an older to a newer vintage. My only curiosity now is at what stage the 2004 was at and what the aromatics would be post “dumb phase”. This has me thinking that I need to purchase a case and taste them every couple of years to fully understand it. I want to thank Denise for supplying this educational wine and hope she has more and can provide comments in the years to come on the changes.
Based on our previous discussion it is no secret that Roussanne wines ages very well. This is due to its unusual combination of richness, minerality and balancing acids. Roussanne wines can be cellared for up to 15 years or more.
· 2009 Val Joanis Roussanne – Southern France
Aromatics: floral notes, wood and slight solvent.
Taste: Crisp apples, citrus, lemon and pear.
· 2008 Edward Selles – Paso Robles
Aromatics: Lemon, pear and pineapple
Taste: Lots of body. Short finish. Citrus, pear and un-ripened apples.
· 2009 Stolpman Roussanne L’Avion – Santa Ynez
Aromatics: Light floral and oak
Taste: Light butter and oak
· 2010 Vines on the Marycrest – Paso Robles
Aromatics: Honey, Honeysuckle and herbal
Taste: Honey and Chamomile
· 2007 Qupe Bien Nacindo Hillside Estate – Santa Maria Valley
Aromatics: Grapefruit and light barnyard
Taste: Caramel, vanilla, pear and green apple. High glycerin.
· 2004 Qupe Bien Nacindo Hillside Estate – Santa Maria Valley
Taste: Subtle grapefruit
· 2008 Curtis – Santa Ynez Valley
Aromatics: Very floral
Taste: Creamy, light green apple and pear.
As can be seen from this tasting, there are some very interesting wines in the world of whites. My mentor, George Skorka, always fascinates me with very unique and complex white wines that keep me on my quest to learn and taste more. It appears I am not alone in this quest as the group wants to do another white varietal at the next GOTN. So as not to disappoint we will visit the Semillion grape at our next meeting which will also be a great way to wrap up the summer. As always I would like to thank Guy Lelarge for allowing us to meet at his wine bar. I would like to provide a special thanks to Vic Herstein who will now be our host as well as an avid member of GOTN. Vic was the one who helped me to establish GOTN a few years ago so it is very special that he is now our host at Valencia Wine Company. Thank you all for your participation and a special thank you to Eve who keeps us informed and on our toes.