“The Roussanne Advantage”: White grapes for Texas

The last three years have been a challenge for vine growers in Texas with all sorts of possible frosts: autumn frosts, mid-winter frosts, and spring frosts. The autumn frost came on Halloween 2019 and the “deep” frost in the middle of winter around Valentine’s Day. Spring frosts appear to be a regular or almost annual occurrence in one’s vineyards throughout the state. I almost forgot to mention another freezing event of its kind: hail, Texas hints of ice wine.

In any case, with all the focus on frost events in our normally warm wine regions in Texas, we must recognize that the frost weather has hit the grape production hard. In 2020, grape production in Texas fell by about 50 percent in harvested tonnage from peaks in 2018-2019, bringing our state out of 6.thu position in the countries with the largest grape harvest until around 13thu. The grapes that bore it particularly heavily are white, an example being the Viognier with 100 tonnes (0.6 tonnes / acre) in 2020 compared to more than 700 tonnes (4.0 tonnes / acre) in 2019. Vermentino, no vineyards show production in 2020 or 2021.

We have known for some time that the white variety of the southern Rhone, the sun-loving Roussanne, tends to sprout two or more weeks later in the spring than other white varieties. This gave him an already experienced advantage over other white grapes in the very variable spring season in Texas. In terms of production in Texas, Roussanne reached 160 tonnes (2.1 tonnes / acre) in 2020, compared to 310 tonnes (4.2 tonnes / acre) in 2019. While in 2020 it was only half the tonnage in By 2019, it is still a much better performance than many other whites growing in Texas.

“New news” learned about the “Roussanne advantage” from a recent Texas A&M Agrilife Extension survey. It was so that around the frost on Valentine’s Day in 2021, Roussanne performed better in terms of the frost resistance of her buds than other grapes, including many red grapes in the study, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. This is another big plus of this grape in Texas – sun loving but hardy.

Well, folks, on Roussanne’s side for Texas, there’s one more thing I’ve kept at the end, and it’s probably the best feature of all. Roussanne of Texas makes excellent wine. On my list of highly rated wines, which I tasted in 2021, were some excellent Roussannes made by various winemakers at various Texas wineries. Some well-known examples of recent Texas Roussanne years are:

William Chris Vineyards, 2020 Roussanne, La Pradera Vineyards, Texas High Plains (Judge’s Medal for Best White in Texas at the 2021 TEXSOM International Wine Awards)

McPherson Cellars, 2010 Roussanne Reserve, Bingham Vineyards, Texas High Plains (also shows the maturing potential of this variety)

Wedding Oak Winery, 2019 Roussanne, Texas High Plains, Phillips Vineyard (you just have to taste this wine to believe it – Chardonnay lovers welcome)

Duchman Family Winery, 2020 Roussanne, Texas High Plains, Oswald Vineyard (Gold Medal of the International Wine Competition in San Francisco 2021; while Duchman Winery has earned a reputation for its Vermentin, winemaker Dave Reilly is now a follower of Roussanne)

English Newsom Cellars, 2019 Roussanne, Texas High Plains, Steve & Cindy Newsom Vineyards (double gold / champion class at the international wine competition without cork Houston Rodeo 2022)

Perissos Vineyards and Winery, 2019 Roussanne Reserve, Texas High Plains, One Way Vineyard (winner of Best of Class Roussanne)

During the recent Texas Fine Wine Zoom Taste and Talk Session, it was interesting to note a discussion between Dave Reilly, a winemaker from Duchman Family Winery, and Ron Yat, owner of Spicewood Vineyards and Yates Wines. The two can usually be counted on in their long jokes with Yates, who promotes Tempranilla’s merits to Texas, while Reilly counters with his celebrations at Aglianico, Texas. But in this case, they both noted their recent good experiences with Roussanne from 2019 to 202, including mentioning both of his ability in the vineyard to capture what Texas weather can throw at it, while also exceptionally functioning in the once-a-year winemaking process. viticulture. I felt obligated to throw in the conversation that the most expensive and most valuable white wines from the French Rhone Valley are blends that lead with most of Roussanne blended.

I sincerely hope that everyone in the Texas wine industry will take note of the “Roussanne Advantage”. In addition, there is a need for educated consumers to help manage the market for high quality and old Texas wines such as Roussanne.

Photo credit: Main photos from https://www.xtrawine.com.

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David Berry

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