I had high hopes to be able to feature some of the hybrid wine grapes developed to withstand the weather extremes here in Minnesota. So I searched out producers of Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, La Crescent, and Marquette. But I came up short on my afternoon of tasting at two local wineries and searching in local wine stores so these “indigenous varieties” will be written about another time.
So my backup plan was to write about my new obsession with Roussanne. As you know from my now daily posts, I’m making a wine from this grape at Crushpad along with many of you. Part of the research before crush is to nail down the style and other characteristics of Roussanne so I’ve been tasting quite a few of these wines of late. One of these wines hails from the CostiÃƒÂ¨res de Nimes in the Languedoc Roussillon region of France: Chateau L’Ermitage, “CuvÃƒÂ©e Sainte CÃƒÂ©cile.”
But before I review this wine, let me back up and talk about Roussanne and what makes this an “indigenous variety.” When Tyler introduced this theme, he asked us to find a wine made with grapes native to the region the wine is made. Unlike other RhÃƒÂ´ne grapes that are actually from Spain (Grenache being a good example) Roussanne can trace it’s heritage back to France’s RhÃƒÂ´ne Valley. Sticklers for detail might point out that Languedoc Roussillon is not the RhÃƒÂ´ne, but CostiÃƒÂ¨res de Nimes is just across the river from that famous region, so this wine is technically “indigenous.”
Roussanne gets it’s name from it’s russet color when ripe and is one of the more difficult grapes to grow. A late variety to ripen, Roussanne is very susceptible to rot and mildew. Therefore, it’s one of the most obscure white varieties with only a few hundred acres grown outside of it’s native RhÃƒÂ´ne. In the northern RhÃƒÂ´ne, Roussanne can only be blended with Marsanne. In the south, other varieties such as Grenache Blanc and Viognier are also permitted along with Marsanne.
Roussanne is known for it’s unique herbal aromatics and bracing acidity so blending with other grapes is most often what winemakers choose. In California and Australia some are bottling the variety on it’s own but the vast majority of the best examples are taken from the southern RhÃƒÂ´ne model and blended with Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne and sometimes Chardonnay.
One of Roussanne’s most interesting aspects is it is one of a few white wines that benefit from extended bottle age. Somewhat like Riesling, the wines are fresh and bold when young but take on very interesting bottle character with 10 or even 20 years of cellaring.
Chateau L’Ermitage is located in CostiÃƒÂ¨res de Nimes, literally across the river from the southern RhÃƒÂ´ne. Along with sea breezes from the Mediterranean, the vines benefits from soil mostly made up of fine pebbles which is typical of this terroir. Chateau L’Ermitage grow traditional RhÃƒÂ´ne varietals Syrah, Grenache, MourvÃƒÂ¨dre, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier.
Chateau L’Ermitage Blanc, “CuvÃƒÂ©e Sainte CÃƒÂ©cile”, CostiÃƒÂ¨res de Nimes 2006 ($20) – A blend of 70% Roussanne, 20% Grenache Blanc and 10% Viognier.
Very floral and fresh with ripe pineapple, white peach, orange peel and almond aromas. Rich in the mouth with ripe pineapple and pear flavors finishing bone dry with good acidity. A very nice introduction to Roussanne blends at a steal of a price.
Synthetic cork closure