It’s the Right Time for Texas Roussanne
Several years ago, in 2010, I experienced what I referred to back then as the breakout year for Texas Tempranillo. Texas wineries went from offering maybe only four or five Tempranillo wines statewide the previous year to over 30 Tempranillo wines and blends in 2010 – See my blog: Texas Tempranillo – It’s Coming on Strong; Consumers, You Better Get Ready https://vintagetexas.com/?p=2400.
Well, a couple weeks ago on a Saturday night, Jeff Cope (@TXwineLover) organized a tasting at Nice Winery in Houston, Texas. He called it, “The Battle of the Texas Roussannes”. Details of the tasting and how it was assembled and his analysis of the blind tasting results are on his website at: http://txwinelover.com/2013/07/battle-of-the-texas-roussannes.
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If you need to take a step back and ask, “What’s Roussanne anyway?” Check out the following link to get more details on this grape that hails from the south of France (a place the really doesn’t look much different than parts of the hill country or west Texas. It’s one of several white blending grapes used to make white Rhone blends: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roussanne.
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What I found interesting at Jeff’s tasting event were two things…
First, Jeff was actually able to round up 15 Texas Roussannes and I contributed two more to make it and “even” 17 Texas Roussannes. They varied in vintage date from 2009 through 2012. Most were single varietal wines but some were blends. Most were vintage dated, but at least one was multi-vintage. More details on the wines and a complete listing are available on Jeff’s blog cited above.
The notable point is that the tasting actually involved 17 Texas Roussanne wines and I know that there some notable missing wines like those from Perissos Vineyards that has offered a dry Roussanne and a Roussanne blend, their semi-sweet “Sweet Lucy” composed of Roussanne (44%), Viognier (44%), and Muscat (12%). This qualifies 2013 as the breakout year for Texas Roussanne.
Secondly, when I looked at my tasting sheet after the evening’s festivities were finished, by far, the lion’s share of the Texas Roussannes and blends were very respectable and palatable wines. When I reported the good results to Texas high plains viticultural consultant Bobby Cox from Lubbock, he didn’t really seem to surprised.
Bobby said, “It was part of our plan all along to spread our Roussanne around to as many Texas wineries as possible. It buds later than most white grapes and should produce a good crop in most years. It’s also a grape that can be easily made into a decent wine even in rudimentary winery operations. It just doesn’t take a lot of special technique or equipment like some grapes do. After all, if you’ve seen how they make their wines in southern France, you shouldn’t be surprised that we can do a decent job of it here in Texas.”
What Bobby talked about is something I’ve actually experienced from my trips to small, family-run Rhone valley wineries…generation’s old concrete fermenting vats and all. I understood him completely.
According to my notes, I rated six of the 17 wines at 90 points or better on a typical 100-point wine judging scale. These were wines from McPherson Cellars, Calais Winery, Brennan Vineyards and Becker Vineyards. Another six were rated above 80 and 89, and these were respectable wines. Three of my lower rated wines were from one winery that appears to need some help (and I was told it usually makes red wines). Two others appeared to have issues related to the cork or possibly storage conditions.
One of the Roussannes that I took to Jeff’s tasting was a 2009 Reserve Roussanne made by a hill country winery from Texas high plains fruit. It was significantly French oak aged, and frankly, when first released I didn’t really care for it. However, after several years of bottle age, it showed very well at this tasting, and it was my second highest scoring wine. This suggests that Roussanne made in Texas has similar characteristics as the French have noted. Chardonnay drinkers, please listen-up! That is, Roussanne can be a very age worthy white wine (like Chardonnay) and gains depth and complexity with bottle age.
The only thing that appears could hold up Roussanne from further gains in Texas in the coming years is the bad to horrendous spring weather the Texas high plains has seen this year. According to Bobby, “Good God! This year, the best I can say is that we WILL have a Roussanne harvest, and that’s more than I can say for Viognier that got hit severely this spring. Roussanne that buds later than most whites still took a hit by the late 2013 freezes but not like the early budding Viognier.”
Great job Jeff. What do you have ready for the next tasting? Texas Tempranillo, Aglianico, Montepulciano or Mourvedre? Texas has lots of what most wine drinkers might consider “new” or “unusual” or perhaps “no-name” varieties of grapes from which you can chose.
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