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Varieties in the Range
Often playing the poor cousin to the more popular Marsanne, Roussanne is most commonly used as a minor component in white blends of the northern Rhone valley, France. The blend is most common in Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint Joseph. Roussanne can be also made in a single varietal wine in the northern Rhone (sometimes as vin de pays), and the Savoy region in Eastern France.
I discovered the beauty of the single variety Roussanne whilst I was working the 2013 vintage in Côte Rôtie. I admired the intensity and minerality the wines had to offer. I also discovered the diversity of the grape in the vineyard and the scope in which it can be used in the winery. This is my inspiration for making Roussanne in 2015, and I am keen to discover the variety in Australia in the years to come.
Another white variety who's spiritual home is the Nothern Rhone, Marsanne is the major variety often found in Hemitage Blanc wines. Marsanne is full in texture and flavour, with exceptional examples living for many years in bottle. It is a variety which will reward great site selection. A great Marsanne shows a flavour profile of marzapan, pear, almond and honeydew with clean acidity.
I am fortunate enough to be working with a tiny block of Yarra Valley Marsanne, The block is 20 years old, unirrigated and located in the cooler "upper" Yarra.. I look forward to learning the site's nuances and strengths over the coming years.
Rosé never takes a specific variety or varietal form. It can come in all shapes and sizes. Rosè from the Rhone Valley is typicaly pale, dry and are savoury in flavour. All the red varieties grown in the Rhone are commonly used, with variation depends on AOC (French Appellation rules), stylistic choice and availability. I am experimenting with the shapes and sizes of rosè, including sourcing grapes from different regions. The savoury notes of Grenache are my favourite, although Syrah can provide nice flesh and fruit-driven styles also..
Syrah is one of the worlds most common red grape cultivars, and here in Australia, it has many incarnations. It's most commonly known here as Shiraz. Australia has claimed the synonym Shiraz as its own. I believe that the name "Shiraz" is most suited to the warmer, drier wine growing areas of Australia where these wines are often blockbuster wines that offer bold flavours and good memories .
As I am sourcing fruit from a cool-climate region, I have decided to use the synonym "Syrah" to emphasise the more classic and refined flavours given by this variety from cooler regions. Syrah is a variety that can be quite forgiving in both viticulture and winemaking, and I believe that site plays a major role in the quality of Syrah. I have found an excellent site (in Warramunda Estate) in Coldstream, Yarra Valley which I believe achieves superb grape quality every year, allowing me to create excellent and individual wine every year.
Grenache is most likely native to northern parts of Spain where it is known as Granacha. But the variety is most famously found in the southern parts of France, particularly the Southern Rhône Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon regions. Some of the best examples of Grenache come form Châteuneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas in France. They are often blended with other red varieties such as Syrah and Mourvèdre. It is widely grown in South Australia and was originally brought to Australia from Europe by the well-know James Busby in 1832. Grenache performs favourably in warm, dry conditions. Early budburst and last harvest coupled with a high disease susceptibility make for a difficult growing season. Wines are often lightly coloured, low in acid and low in tannin.
My inspiration for making Grenache comes from it challenging nature, and to be a good wine as a stand alone variety. I strive to capture the fruit and freshness of the variety, which will lead to producing a wine that will not be trying to be something it is not.
Mourvèdre completes the holy trinity of the major red grapes of the Rhone Valley, Mourvèdre (aka Mataro/Monastrell) is most commonly found in Southern French region of Provence, and It is the keystone variety in the AOC region of Bandol. In other parts of Southern Rhone, it assists in the blends commonly found throughout. Like Grenache, It thrives in hot conditions and typically offers tannin and savoury-fleshy characters to a blend. It also makes excellent rosé.
Taming this variety as a stand-alone is not easy as the wine generally does not offer a full spectrum to complete the tasting experience. Playing on both the strengths and weaknesses' is the key to making this wine pleasant to drink without needing to blend it.