Roussanne Shiraz – Torbreck
I’ve always found the wines of the Rhone region fascinating, if not charming. And particularly those of the Southern Rhone where the winemakers of the Côtes du Rhône villages set an exacting standard using Châteauneuf-du-Pape as their role model.
In the region, the wines are typically richer, spicier and higher in alcohol than other parts of France where paradoxically they will quite commonly blend red and white grape varietals to create a red wine of power, perfume and promise.
To me, there’s a touch of irony in the fact that the region’s reds are made in one of the warmer and drier parts of the country, yet are the perfect choice for those in cooler climates looking to warm themselves internally! But I guess the same can be said for many of the big reds that Australian wineries produce in arid, hot climates.
One of the grapes which the winemakers of the Rhone often use in blending is the Roussanne grape. It’s a light reddy-brown colour on the skin but very much white fleshed inside. In France, you’ll often see it blended with Marsanne to create an aromatic white wine, but it’s also one of the 13 grapes permitted to be used in the Rhone’s most famous blend, Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
When conditions are ideal, the grape adds a richness to the wine and often, floral characters on the nose; which, of course, is part of the attraction to using the grape in blends.
The Roussanne grape is seemingly becoming more and more popular with winemakers here in Australia, particularly in warmer areas like the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and the Barossa in South Australia. Recently, I stumbled across a sensational Shiraz by Torbreck in the Barossa which takes the blending qualities of Roussanne to the next level. You might need to search for it or buy it online, but it’s worth the effort.
The Torbreck Hillside Vineyard Shiraz and Roussanne 2018 is a remarkable drop. Using fruit sourced from the Hillside vineyard in Lyndoch, the winemaking team gently whole bunch press the Roussanne grapes and then add just the Roussanne skins (as opposed to the juice as well) to their famed old vine shiraz fruit and allow co-fermentation to take place. And this vinicultural madness has reaped dividends in spades if the 2018 edition of the wine is any gauge.
The Roussanne lifts the nose with aromas of violets, liquorice and a hint of tar. Let it linger and you might find subtle notes of vanilla bean! As you’d expect given the deep purple inkiness, once on the palate there are plenty of cherries, dark red berries and a sideshow of cassis. A seedy savouriness emerges through the finish with lashings of cedar and clove to balance the generous spicy fruits. You can’t fault the conclusion on which soft tannins palpate your taste buds all the way through a lingering finale. You’ve got to love the difference that a dash of Roussanne makes to what would otherwise be a solid, though typical, Barossa shiraz!
It’s a good example of a beautifully made wine in which the winemaker has respected the fruit and allowed it to express itself in the best possible way. At only $30 – $35 a bottle, the Torbreck Shiraz and Roussanne provides great value and will provide a smooth, seductive and spicy encounter with one of the Old World’s most aromatic grapes.