Roussanne is perhaps most recognisable through its signature aroma, which has been likened to herbal tea. It is a white Rhône grape, and its dark coloured skin, of russet/roux, is what most likely coined its name.
Roussanne, along with Marsanne, are the only white varieties allowed in the northern Rhône red wine appellations of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage and St-Joseph. Despite making better wine, it is vastly outnumbered by vines of Marsanne, which are more resistant to powdery mildew and rot, as well as to wind. Marsanne is also more productive. As a result, there were just 760 hectares of Roussanne in northern Rhône in 2000. Roussanne is also one of four grape varieties permitted in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation in southern Rhône.
Roussanne can also be found in lesser quantities in Provence, Languedoc and Roussillon, as well as Italy, Australia and California. If Roussanne is left to mature fully, it can not only be a good wine in its own right, but it can also be added to other blends to increase body.