Imagine a white wine with spring blossom and herbal tea scents, flavours of pears and lime, and a rich, weighty, nutty, dry palate.
If this appeals, you might enjoy the enchanting roussanne grape.
If you think you have never heard of it before, you might well have drunk it if you have ever had a glass of white Rhône wine.
Roussanne is a bit of a shy performer amongst other Rhône grapes – its stablemates viognier and marsanne are much better known. But roussanne is very important, with a star appearance giving aroma and refinement to top white Rhône blends in Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage, St Joseph, St Peray and Chateauneuf du Pape.
Roussanne is awkward to grow and like many trickier grapes fell out of favour when times got tough in the 1950s and 1960s.
As a late ripener, prone to oxidation (it happily soaks up oxygen), roussanne can be tough to grow in wet Rhône vintages. With bottle age, it can develop an enchanting nutty creaminess which I personally love.
Roussanne is undergoing an interesting renaissance all over the world with more and more growers experimenting with 100 per cent roussanne varietals.
Languedoc blend: La Vieille Ferme Blanc 2015 Paul Mas
This offers a gentle introduction to roussanne, which features in this Côtes du Luberon blend alongside four other grapes (including bourboulenc and vermentino). Soft, easy, rounded, a light quaffer with new oak notes.
£6.99, Co-op; Waitrose
Languedoc blend: Le Marin Blanc Marsanne/Roussanne 2014
Another roussanne blend alongside its popular blending partners marsanne and viognier. Fresh style, pineapple and lime fruits; just easy, soft and undemanding.
£7.99, Majestic Wine Scotland; £8.99, Majestic Wine England
Languedoc: Roussanne 2014 Domaine La Croix Gratiot - STAR BUY
Very popular with tasters who loved its limey aromas, honeydew melon flavours, creamy palate and length. A very approachable and affordable dry style with hints of minerality.
£10.99, Fine Wine Co, Edinburgh; Exel Wines, Perth; Valhalla, Shetland
Massif Central: Roussanne de Madonne 2014 Gilles Bonnefoy
Grown on the volcanic soils in the backwater of Forez region, whose vineyards were once obliterated by phylloxera, this imitates Rhône whites with its blossom aromas and appley fruit flavours, but tasters found it a bit too angular and austere on the palate with a short bitter finish.
£13.95, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com
Savoie: Chignin-Bergeron Exception 2011 Denis & Didier Bertholier - STAR BUY
Our tasters loved this mature bergeron (roussanne’s name in the Chignin area of Savoie). This is a delightful style with delicious dried apricot and nectarine aromas, vibrant acidity and honeyed depth.
£20.40, Alpine Wines, www.alpinewines.co.uk
Savoie: Chignin-Bergeron St Anthelme 2010 Denis & Didier Bertholier
Quite opulent with candied fruit and an interesting mellow nuttiness – but not quite as refined as Bertholier’s Exception (above).
£21.60, Alpine Wines, www.alpinewines.co.uk
Northern Rhône: St Joseph Blanc 2013 Pierre Gaillard - STAR BUY
Tastes like sucking stones sprinkled with pepper, deliciously dense, very minerally, almost waxy in texture, some tannins evident, finishes very dry with a long length. Pricey, but very good.
£23.95, Berry Bros & Rudd, www.bbr.com
Northern Rhône: St Peray Roussanne 2014 Domaine du Tunnel
Typical deep colour, very intense white flower aromas, pearskin flavours, piquant lively acidity, good minerally undertones with an impressive long dry finish.
£29.99, Fine Wine Co, Edinburgh; Exel Wines, Perth
Coastal Region: The Liberator Special Edition ‘A Motley Cru’ 2014 - STAR BUY
Popular with our tasters – who also loved its fun name and label. Aromas are subtle, but its rounded creamy palate has a good balance of tropical fruit notes, fresh acidity and light oak notes.
£10.95, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com
Paarl: Bellingham Bernard Series Whole Bunch Roussanne 2015
Will suit those who like big fat whites. Light apricot and herby aromas, starts smooth and full on the palate, but finishes bitter and clumsy. The lowest scorer in the tasting.
Alpine Valley, Victoria: Jamsheed Beechworth Roussanne 2013
This one is not for the faint hearted. Very sweet, honeyed aromas with rich, yeasty, leesy undertones; melting butterscotch and ripe melon flavours on the palate with a very oily unctuous texture and long dry finish. Difficult to enjoy on its own due to its richness: try with light chicken curry.
£24.50, Berry Bros & Rudd, www.bbr.com