Roussanne, you say?
It's been a while since I posted last, mostly because the semester has started and is beginning to get into full swing! (In the words of Stephen Colbert, "Hey semester, consider a jock strap.") As compensation, I've got a double header for you tonight! The first post is about a wine varietal in which I've taken a new interest.
So, those who read my SingleThread blog post (and if you didn't you should––it was my best meal EVER!) will know that the som got me more interested in Roussanne, a white wine grape cultivated in the Rhône in France, by presenting me with a classic, traditional expression of the grape from the Rhône and proclaiming that he believed Roussanne would one day overtake Chardonnay, particularly in California. His reasoning was that Chardonnay is a finicky grape that requires a lot of "extra," like new oak, to get the fuller bodied white wines we have come to expect from (some!) Chardonnay regions. Roussanne, however, while a very acidic grape when first bottles, mellows out in the bottle and begins to develop a richer, nuttier flavor all on its own without extra fuss.
What a claim! I had to explore for myself.
The Rhône is a wine region in southeastern France in the Rhône River Valley. It is south of the Burgundy wine region, which is famous for Pinot Noir and Chard (my faves!). The northern Rhône is a continental climate, with colder winters and warm summers, and the Mistral wind that cools the grapes at night. Syrahs really shine here as far as red wines go, often with some relative delicacy and funk. In the southern Rhône, the climate is more Mediterranean, with hotter summers and mild winters. The more rugged climate here produces a lot of different microclimates, contributing to the large variety of grapes that agree with this region. The most famous AOC is Châteauneuf du Pape, or "New House of the Pope," named after the area's castle that the Pope inhabited once upon a time, which is famous for its very rocky, gravelly soil that absorbs heat to warm the vines at night and produces wines with a lean, mineral-driven character. Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc is among my favorite white wines!
The white wine varietals for which the Rhône is most known are Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier. The aromatic Viognier is another of my favorite white varietals, and the 100% Viogniers made in places like Condrieu are some of the best white wines I've had. With my little taste of Roussanne that I loved, and my established taste for Viognier and CdP Blanc, I decided I need to explore more of these Rhône whites!
Last week, during my first tryst with my love, Central Market, I collected a Roussanne from California to try. This one was a baby, a 2016 from Truchard in Carneros, the furthest south winemaking region that begins the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. The forward acidity of the wine was apparent, and the fruit character was vibrant and expressive, with a hint of richness that I had been led to expect. This pretty, drinkable white retails for around $25, which is a great deal! I would leave it in the bottle for another year or two to help it develop that richer character!
I had to return to the Rhône, however, to taste some OG Roussanne expressions. I found myself at Total Wine seeking Assyrtiko (another of the BEST white varietals) but decided on a white Rhône blend that was recommended, at least according to the sticker on the shelf! This one came from the Costières de Nîmes, an AOC to the west of the Rhône delta that has pebble-heavy soil similar to CdP, but gets some lovely coastal sea breeze from the Mediterranean.
This 2014 Château de Nages "Joseph Torres" was TOTALLY different from the CA white I tasted last week. Although not 100% Roussanne (60% Roussanne and the rest Marsanne and Viognier), the additional age gave it a totally different character, with a dark, honeyed color, fuller, nuttier body, and much leaner acidity, and even a slight hint of oxidation. The rocky soil also kept the wine nice and lean, with more restrained aromatic character. This one was also around $25, and an absolutely incredible and interesting white! Paired it with a little plate of Serrano jamón, Greek olives, a Bartlett pear, and Marcona almonds. The pear character of the wine was immediately apparent with the Bartlett on my palate, while the richness was able to support the salty pork. Delicious snack!
I love this wine, and it may become a standby for me! I have little periods I call "love affairs" with particular appellations or varietals, and I think this may be my current one, alongside cool climate Syrah.
Next up in the double header, stay tuned for a writeup on tonight's filet Mignon!