Here we have another grape name mishmash which can easily confuse. Whilst Altesse is known by the name Roussette, there are Roussettes which are NOT Altesse, for example Roussette d’Ayze. Altesse must not be confused with Rhône white Roussanne, which you do find in Savoie under the name Bergeron.
Worth wading through the confusion and getting some bottles though, as this is a very interesting variety.
Expect a complex riot of notes - honey, pear and rhubarb, sometimes other fruit from pineapple to quince, digestive biscuit, ginger snaps and tea, with a slight salinity. Roussette makes highly perfumed wines with good acidity which leads to longevity - the best wines will last for decades. Most are dry wines but occasionally, the winemaker will leave a little residual sugar in to make a slightly sweeter wine.
While there are a number of theories concerning the origins of Altesse, it would appear that it most likely originated in its current home Savoie. The word Altesse means “highness” but is more likely to refer to height than royalty, not that that prevented a few royalty-based stories doing the rounds about Altesse.
DNA testing has shown the grapes that it used to be connected with as being unrelated, but has identified a genetic closeness between Altesse and Chasselas, the primary Swiss grape.
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