It may seem counter-in­tu­itive to many of us, but the fa­mous French red blend Chateauneu­f-du-pape from the North­ern Rhône re­gion is not made en­tirely from red fruits; it, in fact, has six white va­ri­etals which may be used by wine­mak­ers to craft their wares.

One of those whites is a grape called rous­sanne, which is also per­mit­ted to be used in Her­mitage AOC wines, along with one other white grape, marsanne.

The rous­sanne grape is dif­fi­cult to grow, but when done well it can make a stun­ning wine.

Rous­sanne is thought to have orig­i­nated in the Rhône district where it does quite well. In other re­gions it doesn’t al­ways put its best foot for­ward, as it can be vul­ner­a­ble to mildew and doesn’t cope well with be­ing wind­blown or ex­posed to ex­tended dry spells. But when it works, the re­sults are sublime.

On the vine the rous­sanne grapes are an un­usual rust colour with splotches or red and pink.

Once vini­fied the style is typ­i­cally aro­matic and rich but can be acidic if picked

too early, but it can get away if picked too late.

To add to the wine­maker’s woes it can also eas­ily ox­i­dise, so it’s prob­a­bly un­sur­pris­ing that wine­mak­ers have es­chewed the grape in favour of its “room­mate”, marsanne, which pro­duces higher yields and is far more for­giv­ing in the vine­yard.

When made as a white wine, rous­sanne is of­ten blended with marsanne, al­though the pair are able to com­pose up to 15 per cent of Her­mitage wines un­der ‘ap­pel­la­tion d’orig­ine con­trolee’ (AOC) reg­u­la­tions.

Sadly, we don’t see a lot of the va­ri­etals in Aus­tralia even though we have some of the old­est marsanne vines in the world.

As phyl­lox­era wiped out most of the Eu­ro­pean vines, the vines at Tah­bilk in Vic­to­ria, which were planted in 1927 are now among the old­est in the world.

If you’re in­ter­ested in try­ing the va­ri­etals, there’s no bet­ter place to start than the Hunter Val­ley in New South Wales. At Meerea Park, Garth and Rhys Eather have made both a straight rous­sanne and a marsanne rous­sanne blend un­der the “in­die” ban­ner, which are ter­rific ex­am­ples of the style but also very af­ford­able.

Both marsanne and rous­sanne flour­ish in the Hunter Val­ley cli­mate and as a re­sult, the Meerea Park wines are aro­matic, volup­tuous and thor­oughly de­li­cious.

The vine­yard has only three acres of rous­sanne, which was grafted on to semil­lon root­stock back in 2012, but it is enough to make both a sin­gle-va­ri­etal rous­sanne and a marsanne-rous­sanne blend. I’ve tried both, but the blend is with­out ques­tion, a stand­out.

It’s a blend in which the marsanne dom­i­nates (70 per cent) but is aro­matic and fruit for­ward. There are lovely nashi pear and quince flavours up front and lash­ings of cin­na­mon and nut­meg through the mid­dle.

A hon­eyed edge ap­pears on the con­clu­sion along­side a spicy and acidic nut­ti­ness. It’s hard to imag­ine a bet­ter part­ner for spicy Asian dishes, and at the sub $25 price point, value is as­sured.

To read more Travis Schultz wine reviews go to traviss­

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