This grape should be extinct for all practical purposes, as far as vineyardists are concerned, who would rather manage more cooperative vines. Roussanne gives irregular yields and tends to uneven and late ripening, has little resistance to powdery mildew and rot and is easily damaged by wind and drought.
By selecting and propogating only the least problematic clones, it is the vintners who have preserved Roussanne for two primary reasons: unique aroma and bracing acidity.
Roussanne probably gets its name from the light-brownish russet cast of its ripe berries. It is the only other white variety, besides Marsanne, allowed in France’s mostly-red-wine-producing northern Rhône appellations of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage and St. Joseph. It is also grown in Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the south. There are limited plantings in a few other French regions and in Italy’s Liguria and Tuscany and also in Australia. As of the 2002 California Grape Acreage Report, there are 177 acres in the state.
Roussanne can be thin and tart and is not often bottled on its own in Europe, being blended with Marsanne in the Rhône and in other areas with Chardonnay. Roussanne will perform well using barrel fermentation and oak aging and some California winemakers release varietal bottlings.
The aroma of Roussanne, not as overtly fruity as some types, can suggest wild flowers or herbal tea.
Roussanne wines and blends seem to hold up well with cellaring and may be enjoyable a decade or more past the vintage.