Each year, one of our favorite Syrah lots in the cellar is one that we co-ferment with Roussanne. We typically blend about 10% Roussanne into Syrah, de-stem the two grapes, and then ferment them together in an open-top tank. The lushness of the mid-palate of Roussanne helps round out the Syrah (which can be fairly angular on its own).
This year, we encountered an unexpected problem, as the Roussanne refused to be de-stemmed. We've never had a problem with this before, but with particularly tight clusters in 2007 and the overall small berry sizes, it seems that the berries just won't give up their grips on the stems. So, we're having to press the Roussanne and add it to the fermenting Syrah as juice. A close-up of the Roussanne is below:
We've consistently had better luck co-fermenting Syrah with Roussanne than we have with Viognier. Although it's commonly done in the Northern Rhone (and has been copied by California producers) we've never found it to do the trick. For us, Syrah is very aromatic and long, with its only flaw being a bit hollow on the mid-palate when it's young. Viognier further emphasizes the aromatic character, but if anything the resulting wine is more notable (perhaps because of the explosive aromatics) for its relatively underdeveloped mid-palate.
Oh, well. We're still learning. Every year brings something we haven't seen before. This year, it's Roussanne that refuses to be de-stemmed. Next year, who knows!