The Rise of Roussanne
The white wines of France’s Rhône region bring a distinctive character to the white wine world in large part due to their origins in an autochthonous set of grapes. Those varieties have found hospitable conditions in the New World, in particular in California and Texas. One of the most impressive in Texas’ clay and limestone soils is roussanne. Late budding means that it has the ability to dodge the late frosts that are the most significant climatic challenge in the state. Low planted acreage has kept roussanne something of a secret hitherto but I expect that to change with good examples being made and new acreage coming on stream.
Roussanne produces wines that are intensely fruity with aromas of peaches, pears and ripe apples. It also has herbal and spicy notes and a bouquet of fresh flowers. When produced in the Rhône, they can also have a gravelly minerality. The texture can be viscous and oily on the mouth.
The wines this review, one from a respected California producer and the other from a respected Texas producer, illustrate well the characteristics of the grape that predominate in the New World.
2012 Austin Hope Roussanne, $23
The Austin Hope is day bright and a deep gold color (the depth of the gold hue may be partly accounted for by its age, although it is the winery’s current release). In the nose the wine is more subdued than expected. There are cling peaches and a hint of smokiness. On the palate it is a different story. There is ripe grapefruit, mango, baked apple, a pronounced phenolic backbone, medium plus acid and a medium fruit-driven finish. This is a well-made New World example of roussanne.
2014 Bending Branch Winery Roussanne, $28
The Bending Branch Roussanne is day bright but yellow straw in color. Instantly distinguishable from the Austin Hope. The nose is effusive with very ripe fruit, yielding peaches, cantaloupe and passion fruit. Those same fruits present themselves in the mouth as well. There is medium-plus acid and a medium plus viscosity. There is a lot going on in this wine and I would consider ageing some bottles, opening one a year to evaluate progress.
Both wines may be ordered via the winery’s web site. Austin Hope is more available through distribution than Bending Branch. Both are produced in only a few hundred cases.
Disclosure and procedures: Some wines sent by vendor(s) at no cost to reviewer. If a local reseller is named after a price quote it is the one who, on wine-searcher.com, had the lowest price. Otherwise winery pricing is used. Wines sent by vendors may not be reviewed and will not be returned.