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Anastasia Bulay
June 27, 2024 | Anastasia Bulay

Israeli Roussanne Food Pairings

Roussanne, a grape with a russet-colored skin (roux in French, hence the name), is a gem originating from the Rhône Valley in France. While still primarily cultivated there, it has found success in various wine-growing regions of the New World, such as South Africa and Australia, as well as in Mediterranean regions like Tuscany and Spain. The Roussanne varietal also thrives in the Eastern Mediterranean, in Israel, where a unique terrain with shores and mountains and valleys permits the cultivation of exceptional Roussanne grapes that meet or exceed standards.

It's not the easiest grape to grow, being susceptible to powdery mildew, but it rewards winemakers with beautifully aromatic and elegant wines. Roussanne is a key ingredient in white wine blends, mostly with Marsanne, but also with varietals like Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay etc., which complement it and elevate the taste to the next level. All these varietals are also successfully cultivated in Israel, thanks to its unique climate and terrain.

Aromatic Profile and Characteristics

Roussanne-based blends boast a captivating bouquet. Roussanne on its own is characterized by herbal, tea-like aromas, with a delightful mix of fruity notes like apricot and lime, intertwined with honeysuckle and iris. On the palate, it typically shows pears and honey with notable intensity. When blended with Marsanne, it provides aromatic intensity, complementing its richer counterpart's structure and body.

The taste profile reflects this varietal's noble character, offering a good balance of acidity and a captivating aroma. Depending on the origin and harvest time, the acidity can range from medium to high, and Roussanne-based wines are typically light in sweetness.

Despite its limited size, Israel packs a surprising punch when it comes to Roussanne diversity. This is thanks to the unique variations in climate and soil types found across its various regions. Furthermore, the diverse craftsmanship of Israeli winemakers allows them to showcase their unique styles in every bottle.

Our newest arrival: Ein Teina Roussanne, a wine never before imported to the States! A pure unblended Roussanne is a rare find, as Roussanne grapes are challenging to cultivate and more often used in blends.

This unique wine comes from a small boutique winery and was meticulously crafted using two harvests of the same grape varietal to achieve perfect balance. The first harvest produced grapes with lower sugar levels, resulting in a wine with vibrant acidity, crucial for its structure. Two weeks later, a second harvest brought riper grapes bursting with varietal character.

These grapes hail from the Southern Golan, known for its deep volcanic soil. This soil acts like a natural reservoir, retaining water during the hot summer months and preventing vine stress. This allows for crucial "hang time" – the extra time grapes spend on the vine to their final maturation, fully developing their flavor profile.

The wine undergoes several months of aging "sur lie" with batonnage. This technique enriches the body of the wine and adds complexity. The result is a stunning aromatic wine with an elegant fruity-herbal character. It strikes a balance between freshness and ripeness, avoiding an immature dilution or overly tropical character.

Please note that Ein Teina is a non-Kosher winery.

This food-friendly wine is intended to complement your meal, letting the flavors of your dish shine. Don't miss your chance to be among the first in the U.S. to try Ein Teina's Roussanne – we highly recommend it!

With the exception of Ein Teina winery's unique unblended Roussanne, most Israeli Roussanne expressions come in blends. This reflects the country's rich tradition of crafting blends for all palates, drawing on the creative visions of vintners and the diverse grape qualities produced in Israel's distinct wine regions.

Restaurateur Jacques Capsouto’s concept was to grow French-originated varietals of grapes in the Western Galilee, and make blends in the Southern Rhone style, less fruit-forward, with strong minerality. These are classic blends that feature Roussanne and Marsanne alongside other French varietals. The resulting Roussanne blends turned out to be elegant and refreshing, easy to drink and versatile food companions, particularly with French cuisine.

We recommend two Capsouto Roussanne blends – Albert Grand Vin Blanc and Eva Blanc. These wines are kosher.

A boutique winery Somek, located in one of Israel's oldest wine-making regions on the Mediterranean coast, takes a completely different approach with Roussanne. Led by its fifth-generation vintner, the winery crafts a rich and almost creamy Roussanne blend called “Hadereh Halevana” (White Road) bursting with intense fruity aromas and hints of ginger and honey. A year spent in oak barrels followed by two years in the winery results in a velvety smooth taste with notes of pine, roasted sesame seeds, and a lingering caramel aftertaste.

Somek wines are certified vegan.
They are non-kosher.

Another small but outstanding Israeli winery, Agur, is situated in the historic Elah Valley, where David famously defeated Goliath. Here, they craft Roussanne blends with yet another distinct style. These wines are complex and rich, yet balanced by a refreshing, crisp minerality – a true reflection of the local terroir through the blend's different varietals.
Agur wines are kosher.

Each of these diverse Roussanne expressions finds its perfect food pairing, waiting to be discovered.

Roussanne: A Culinary Canvas

All Israeli Roussanne blends are beautifully aromatic and food-friendly wines. Unoaked styles boast a lighter body and bright acidity, while oaked versions develop a richer texture. Let's explore how to unlock different Roussanne blends potential through delicious pairings.

Cheeseboard Delights

Roussanne complements a delightful range of cheeses. Soft and creamy options like Brie or Camembert create a luxurious contrast with the wine's acidity. For a bolder pairing, explore hard cheeses like Gruyere, a young cheddar, or even a tangy Comté.

Forget the struggle to find the perfect cheese pairing with white wine. Look no further than Agur Layam Blanc. This Roussanne-led blend, featuring Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier, boasts a luxuriously complex character.

The secret lies in its nine-month slumber in barrels, where fermentation and aging on lees imbue it with richness. This depth of flavor makes Agur Layam Blanc a fantastic match for a variety of cheeses. Holding its own against strong cheeses without overpowering delicate varieties, it becomes an ideal choice for a cheese plate featuring a diverse selection.

Enjoy it with milder options like cheddar, Brie, Monterey Jack, or Triple Crème. It beautifully complements herb-coated goat and sheep milk cheeses as well. But Agur Layam Blanc doesn't shy away from bolder options. Its richness stands up to the sharpness of Parmigiano-Reggiano, creating a harmonious balance on the palate.

Don't forget crusty bread – its texture adds another dimension to the experience and allows the flavors of both the cheese and the wine to linger on the tongue.

Fish And Seafood

Beyond cheese, all Roussanne wines shine alongside white fish.

Elegant Roussanne blend Capsouto Cuvée Albert Grand Vin Blanc could be a great match for various fish dishes.  This "Grand Vin Blanc," named after the winemaker's brother Albert, a Tribeca restaurateur, is primarily Roussanne with addition of Clairette and Marsanne varietals. The Roussanne undergoes aging in French oak barrels, adding complexity to the wine. Roussanne blended with Marsanne is the classic pairing for a reason. Marsanne contributes richness and body, lending a weight that complements Roussanne's natural elegance. Its subtle sweetness also helps balance the bright acidity of Roussanne, creating a harmonious and complex wine.

Medium-bodied with a long finish, Capsouto Cuvée Albert Grand Vin Blanc unfolds a complex bouquet. Mineral aromas mingle with green apple, pear, white flowers, and white tea. This perfectly balanced, old-world blend showcases a symphony of tart peach and apricot on a lingering finish, where the minerality echoes with hints of flint and stone. The wine's complex interplay of flavors create a beautiful pairing with lobster bisque, echoing the dish's own depth. Grilled scallops with saffron cream sauce or steamed crab legs dipped in clarified butter are other delightful accompaniments.

It would also shine alongside various white fish, from the delicate flavors of cod or halibut to the heartier texture of grouper. Pan-sear your fish with a touch of butter and lemon for a classic pairing, or experiment with a light poaching method for a lighter experience.

A lighter Ein Teina Roussanne might just be the ideal partner for bouillabaisse, the jewel of French Mediterranean cuisine. This rich seafood stew, simmered with fish, shellfish, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, herbs, and a hint of saffron, explodes with flavor. Each ingredient becomes a delightful dance partner for this versatile Roussanne. Its floral and fruity notes complement the broth's flavors beautifully. It would enhance the delightful flavors of the bouillabaisse without overpowering it.

Poultry Perfection

Roussanne is a natural partner for poultry. Season your chicken with fragrant herbs like thyme or oregano, allowing the wine to complement both the dish's flavor and aroma.

Rich poultry dishes like Chicken Francese, with its tangy lemon pan sauce, find a beautiful match in a mature oaked Roussanne like Somek White Road. This harmonious blend of Roussanne, Viognier, & Chenin Blanc comes from vineyards cultivated by the same family since 1882! A year in oak barrels followed by two years in the winery imbues the wine with remarkable complexity.

The wine’s vivacious interplay of blossoming orchard, tart nectarine, pear, grapefruit, and lime, is accompanied by notes of ginger, honey and Meyer lemon. A touch of minerality refreshes the aftertaste, inviting you to savor the moment. Somek White Road's creamy yet fresh character creates a dream pairing for chicken with lemon. Wine’s citrus notes echo the dish’s lemon zest, while its subtle hint of buttery richness complements the sauce. Slight note of hazelnuts in the wine adds another layer of complexity, creating a truly harmonious pairing that elevates both the food and the wine.

Beyond Chicken

Roussanne also elevates other poultry dishes. Try a rich duck confit or indulge in a luxurious goose roasted with caramelized onions and apples. For a festive occasion, pair a mature Roussanne with a turkey roasted with herbs and vegetables.

Vegetable Symphony

Roussanne doesn't shy away from vegetables!

Pair light or medium-bodied Roussanne with roasted root vegetables like parsnips and carrots. Toss them with olive oil, thyme, and a touch of honey for a touch of sweetness. Winter squashes roasted with a dash of cinnamon become an even more delightful match.

For a richer experience with more mature Roussanne, explore creamy vegetable dishes. Butternut squash ravioli with a sage and brown butter sauce or a creamy cauliflower gratin with Gruyere cheese become showstopping companions.

Roussanne's versatility extends to vegetarian delights. Risotto with butternut squash or pumpkin becomes a luxurious main course when paired with oaked Roussanne. The wine's richness complements the creamy texture of the risotto and the sweetness of the squash.

Yam and Potato Pairings

Don't overlook the humble potato or yam! Mashed potatoes with roasted rosemary chicken and a splash of cream in the mash become an elevated comfort food experience when paired with a lighter Roussanne like Ein Teina’s. For an even richer experience, try creamy potato or yam purees infused with herbs like chives or roasted garlic.

Soups and Roussanne: A Symphony of Comfort and Flavor

Roussanne's versatility extends to the comforting world of soups! Its bright acidity creates a delightful harmony with creamy textures, making it a perfect partner for a variety of dishes.

Creamy Delights

Indulge in a luxurious pairing with creamy mushroom soup. The wine's acidity cuts through the richness of the mushrooms, allowing their earthy notes to truly shine. Similarly, explore a creamy cauliflower or broccoli soup, where Roussanne's vibrant character complements the subtle sweetness of the cauliflower or broccoli.

Unexpected Brilliance: French Onion Soup

For those seeking a more adventurous pairing, Roussanne blends can be a delightful partner for French onion soup. We suggest trying it with Capsouto Cuvée Eva Blanc, a wine made mainly from Grenache Blanc, balanced with a smaller amounts of Clairette, Roussanne, and Marsanne. This Southern Rhône-style white wine, named after the winemaker's mother in a gesture of love and respect, is crafted with remarkable skill and elegance. It boasts a soft nose of white peach and lemon zest, followed by flavors of peach, apricot, fennel bulb, and a hint of rye on the palate. It is fresh, with good acidity and a well-balanced finish.

The wine's acidity acts as a refreshing foil to the soup's robust flavors. Imagine juicy citrus and hints of Mediterranean herbs dancing across your palate, cutting through the richness of caramelized onions, melty cheese, and savory broth. Despite its boldness, the soup's texture finds harmony with Roussanne's creamy character. Most surprisingly, the grassy and herbaceous notes, a signature contribution of the Roussanne in this blend, find a hidden connection with the savory onion flavors, creating a delightful experience. This unexpected pairing showcases Roussanne's versatility and ability to elevate classic dishes, even when it plays a supporting role in the blend.

A Spicy Adventure: Thai, Curries and Creole

Roussanne boasts a surprising talent: it can handle spice beautifully! Take, for example, Agur Blanc, an aromatic and beautifully structured blend of Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier from the Judean Hills. This wine exemplifies this strength, standing up to the bold aromatics like lemongrass and ginger common in Southeast Asian cuisine. Its crisp character acts as a refreshing counterpoint, cutting through the richness and cleansing your palate, preventing that heavy feeling you can get from spicy dishes.

Dive into the world of Thai curries. Focus on lighter options like yellow curries featuring chicken and vegetables, or green curries with shrimp and bamboo shoots. These dishes will allow the nuanced flavors of Roussanne to shine.

Travel down to Louisiana and explore an unexpected match for Roussanne blends: the bold flavors of Creole and Cajun cuisine! This pairing might be for the more adventurous, but with the right Roussanne, it can be truly rewarding. Gumbo is a complex dish with a rich, spicy personality. It demands a wine that's bold enough to stand up to the gumbo's intensity, yet nuanced enough not to overpower its unique flavors. Oaked Roussanne blend like Somek White Road or Agur Layam Blanc step up to the challenge. Their balanced acidity cuts through the gumbo's richness, while not overwhelming its flavor.

Balance is key to a perfect pairing. Opt for dishes with a medium spice level to avoid overwhelming the delicate flavors of Roussanne. This allows the aromatic spices to shine alongside the wine, revealing the magic of this versatile white.

Aromatic Adventures: Tagines and the Middle East

Roussanne's affinity for bold flavors extends to the Middle East. Its savory notes find a delightful echo in dishes featuring cilantro, cumin, ginger, and garlic. Don't miss pairing Roussanne with tagines, especially those featuring poultry. Moroccan chicken tagines simmering with apricots, almonds, and a touch of cinnamon become a true symphony of flavor when paired with a Roussanne blend. The wine's crisp acidity cuts through the sweetness of the dried fruit, while harmonizing with the warm spices that grace tagines. Explore other dishes from the region, like grilled chicken or fish with herb rubs, or eggplant dishes, or creamy hummus, to discover a world of exciting new pairings.

Roussanne's Italian Journey

Creamy pasta dishes and risottos are practically begging for a perfect partner. Look no further than Somek White Road with its rich texture and notes of tart fruit, sweet butter, and a hint of honey. It beautifully complements the cheesy richness of these meals, while the wine's subtle floral notes playfully dance with the fragrant herbs often used in Italian cooking.

So, next time you're exploring Italian cuisine, don't be afraid to reach beyond the typical Pinot Grigio. Look for a flavorful Roussanne blend from the Israeli Mediterranean shore, and discover a world of flavor pairings waiting to be explored.

Roussanne's Rendezvous with Melon

One more gourmet pairing to tempt your palate: lighter Roussanne blends, like Capsouto Cuvée Eva Blanc, with a delectable melon. Delicate notes of spice and honeysuckle in the wine complement the aromatic fruit, creating a harmonious and refined dessert duo.

A Few Words on Wrong Pairings

While Roussanne is wonderfully versatile, there are a few exceptions to keep in mind. Avoid extremely smoky or charred dishes, as the smokiness can overpower the wine's delicate charm. Excessively spicy dishes with overpowering chilies can also be a mismatch, as the heat can overwhelm the wine's flavors. Very light and simply prepared dishes might get lost against a full-bodied oaked Roussanne blends. Finally, avoid overly sweet dishes. The wine's acidity can clash with the sweetness, creating an unpleasant imbalance on the palate. With these small considerations in mind, you're ready to embark on a delicious adventure with Roussanne!

In Conclusion

Roussanne is a food-lover's dream, waiting to be explored. From cheese plates to fish dishes, creamy pastas, spicy adventures, and flavorful global cuisine, this versatile wine offers a delightful pairing for every palate. So, raise a glass and embark on your own delicious journey with Israeli Roussanne!



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