Is Roussanne The Next Breakthrough Texas Grape?

By on September 11, 2013 Behind the Label

by Andrew Chalk, CraveDFW & Senior Writer, Texas Wine and Trail Magazine

I recently reported on a tasting of Texas wines made from the Rhône grape named Roussanne.  Thirty four Dallas consumers blind-tasted 17 Roussanne wines (or blends) from major Roussanne growing regions (10 wines were from Texas) and when the results were in, Texas wines occupied four of the five top positions, including first.

That tasting, organized by a wine event group named Gusto, has been replicated closely by them in Houston and Austin. Here are the results for the top five wines out of 17 in each tasting. I have highlighted the Texas wines to draw attention to their rankings:

Location: Austin @ Malaga Tapas & Bar. Date: 7/30/2013 – 27 Tasters

1. Truchard, Carneros, Roussanne, 2011 $22.

2. Calais WineryTexas High Plains‘La Cuvee Principale’ Roussanne, 2011. $21.

3. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’ Roussanne 2011. (no price available on web site)

4. McPherson CellarsTexas, Roussanne, 2012. $14.

5. Spicewood VineyardsTexas High Plains, Roussanne, 2010. $14.

Location: Houston @ Solaro Estate Winery. Date 8/8/2013 – 18 Tasters

1. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012

2. Truchard, Carneros, Roussanne, 2011

3. Château de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape, Blanc, 2010. $80.

4. Spicewood Vineyards, Texas High Plains, Roussanne, 2010

5. Brennan VineyardsTexas, ‘Lily,’ Roussanne Blend, 2012. $17.50.

Location: Dallas @ Calais Winery.  Date: 8/28/2013 – 34 Tasters

1. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012. $14.

2. Wedding Oak WineryTexas Hill Country, High Valley Vineyard, ‘Terre Blanc,’ Roussanne Blend, 2012. $22.

3. Calais Winery, Texas High Plains‘La Cuvee Principale’ Roussanne, 2011. $21.

4. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’ Roussanne 2011. (no price available on web site)
5. Blue OstrichTexas, Roussanne, 2011. $19.

Note: See Gusto web site for full results.

Top Overall Statewide (based on an average of all results)

1. Truchard, Carneros, Roussanne, 2011

2. McPherson Cellars, Texas, Roussanne, 2012

3. Calais Winery, Texas High Plains, ‘La Cuvee Principale’ Roussanne, 2011

4. Bending Branch Winery, Paso Robles, ‘Comfortage’ Roussanne 2011
5. Château de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape, Blanc, 2010

Some Observations

First, Texas wines fared well in all individual tastings and, in Gusto’s aggregate ratings, came in second and third. Second, although there were around 10 Texas wines in most tastings, there was some consistency in which ones wines made the top five. The top names in Texas Roussanne are McPherson CellarsCalais Winery and Spicewood Vineyards (the latter did not make the cut in one of the three tastings). Third, these positions were obtained against California and French examples that, in the California case, are comparably priced. And, in the French case, are priced at least three times as high as the most expensive Texas wine.

Of course methodological criticisms can be made: not all Texas Roussanne wines were included in these tastings, Truchard did not appear in Dallas (so its earlier results were, apparently, extrapolated to give it the first place), blends were included as well as 100% Roussanne wines, and the identity of the tasters varied across the tastings. However, I take these results as suggestive that Texas Roussanne has improved to the point that the best are now comparable in quality with California and aggressively price-competitive with France, albeit with style differences. It needs further tastings in the future for these suggestive results to be raised to the level where they can be considered indicative. However, early results are promising.

I applaud Gusto for their fun, informative tastings and the Texas winemakers who are working so hard to improve Texas wines.

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