Clairette is a white wine grape variety most widely grown in the wine regions of Provence, Rhône and Languedoc in France. At the end of the 1990s, there were 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) of Clairette grown in France, although volumes are decreasing.
Clairette Blanche was often used to make vermouth, to which it is suited as it produces wine high in alcohol and low in acidity, and therefore yields wines that are sometimes described as "flabby" and which tend to oxidise easily. These problems have sometimes been partially overcome by blending it with high-acid varieties such as Piquepoul Blanc. It is allowed into many appellations of Southern Rhône, Provence and Languedoc. The white wines Clairette de Bellegarde and Clairette du Languedoc are made entirely from Clairette Blanche, while the sparkling wine Clairette de Die can also contain Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. Clairette Blanche is frequently used in the blended white Vin de pays from Languedoc.
It is also one of the thirteen grape varieties permitted in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. With 2.5% of the appellation's vineyards planted in Clairette Blanche in 2004 it is the most common white variety in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, slightly ahead of Grenache Blanc.
Outside France it is also grown in South Africa for sparkling wine, Australia and Sardinia.
Alternative Names: Clairette Blanche, Blanquette
Grenache Blanc (also known as garnatxa Blanca in Catalonia) is a variety of white wine grape that is related to the red grape Grenache. It is mostly found in Rhône wine blends and in northeast Spain. Its wines are characterised by high alcohol and low acidity, with citrus and or herbaceous notes. Its vigour can lead to overproduction and flabbiness. However, if yields are controlled, it can contribute flavour and length to blends, particularly with Roussanne. Since the 1980s, it has been the fifth most widely planted white wine grape in France after Ugni Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Alternative Names: Garnacha Blanca, Garnatxa Blanca, White Grenache
Marsanne is a white wine grape, most commonly found in the Northern Rhône region. It is often blended with Roussanne. In Savoie the grape is known as grosse roussette. Outside France it is also grown in Switzerland (where it is known as ermitage Blanc or just ermitage), Spain (where it is known as Marsana), Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
Alternative Names: Marsana, Ermitage, Ermitage Blanc, Grosse Roussette, Hermitage
Roussanne is a white wine grape grown originally in the Rhône wine region in France, where it is often blended with Marsanne. It is the only other white variety, besides Marsanne, allowed in the northern Rhône appellations of Crozes-Hermitage AOC, Hermitage AOC and Saint-Joseph AOC. In the southern Rhône appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC it is one of six white grapes allowed, where it may be blended into red wines. Roussanne is also planted in various wine-growing regions of the New World, such as California, Washington, Texas, South Africa and Australia as well as European regions such as Crete, Tuscany and Spain.
The berries are distinguished by their russet colour when ripe—roux is French for the reddish-brown colour russet, and is probably the root for the variety's name. The aroma of Roussanne is often reminiscent of a flowery herbal tea. In warm climates, it produces wines of richness, with flavours of honey and pear, and full body. In cooler climates it is more floral and more delicate, with higher acidity. In many regions, it is a difficult variety to grow, with vulnerability to mildew, poor resistance to drought and wind, late and/or uneven ripening, and irregular yields.
Wines made from Roussanne are characterised by their intense aromatics which can include notes of herbal tea. In its youth it shows more floral, herbal and fruit notes, such as pear, which become more nutty as the wine ages. Roussanne from the Savoie region is marked by pepper and herbal notes. Wine expert Oz Clarke notes that Roussanne wine and Roussanne dominated blends can drink very well in the first 3 to 4 years of their youth before entering a "dumb phase" where the wine is closed aromatically until the wine reaches 7 or 8 years when it develops more complexity and depth.
Alternative Names: Bergeron, Fromental