Though not particularly well-known, the Marsanne grape variety is the source of some of the Rhône Valley’s most exceptional white wines in the world! Marsanne is one of eight grape varieties permitted in the Cotes de Rhone appellation that traces its origin to France.
It is native to the northern Rhône Valley of France that offers the ideal climatic condition of a steep, terroir of chalk, granite, and limestone soils. For this reason, the best Marsanne wines come from this part of the world. This, however, doesn’t ignore the fact that viticulture can be done.
Cultivation of Marsanne Vines
Other than the Rhône valley, the grape is predominant in California and Australia, where it found its entry in the 1860s. Australia now has some of the world’s oldest Marsanne vines. Tahbilk vineyard in Australia has Marsanne vines, which date back to 1927. So far, Marsanne has been widely planted across southern France, The United States, and to a small extent, in Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, and Canada.
The Marsanne grape is a fat and deeply colored, high yielding grape with high grape sugar levels, and low acidity. It, therefore, can easily be enjoyed raw. Like many grapes, Marsanne is quite aromatic and flavorful. Some of its aromatic elements range from caramel to pineapple, almonds, honeysuckle, and unroasted hazelnut. The crisp citrus elements surprise the palate with acidity and lively spicy mineral flavors from this wine.
The cultivation of Marsanne grape poses challenges as it is very susceptible to diseases and being particularly sensitive to extreme climatic changes. The growers ought to continually monitor the vines for such. This is a contributing factor to the fact that Marsanne grapes are picked early in time before they are long-matured. If exposed to extremely cold temperatures, the grapes fail to ripen to maximum levels, thus producing thin, insipid wines. On the other hand, when conditions are scorching, the resultant wines are blowsy, overblown, and out of balance in terms of flavors and color.
Production of Marsanne
For a long time, Marsanne grapes were used to produce Chateau Tahbilk (probably the grape’s greatest flag-bearer) in Australia. However, that has since changed as it can be blended with Roussanne, Viognier, and Vermentino to achieve more depth. Roussanne’s acidity levels are high, and so this blend creates a balance in flavor and color.
Marsanne grapefruits are picked off the plant just before they achieve their optimum levels of ripeness. This is done to retain as much acidity as possible to add balance and freshness to the wine at the end of the production process.
Marsanne wine can be both sweet white wine and dry white wine, and the process of production involved majorly determines this. To produce the sweet wine, wineries use the vin de Palle or the straw wine method. The straw method includes sun-drying the grapes on straw mats before extreme concentrating, pressing, and fermenting is done. The resulting drink is usually a unique, refreshingly oily, silky, and robust wine of high complexity and balance.
Aged Marsanne wines take a beautiful golden color with a baked apple-like flavor. White wines usually are not known to improve with bottle aging. However, those made from this variety improve markedly with bottle age. Marsanne can age gracefully for a period of up to ten years. Aging takes place even when not subjected to oak-barrel aging, and still achieve notes of nuts (associated with oak barrel aging) and honey.
Though not quite popular, Marsanne is excellent in food pairing and should be tried out! It is a real treat and can be paired with food because of its wide taste profile range. It can be found in extremely sweet, medium body and dry styles.
Marsanne, therefore, can be combined with a variety of dishes and not compromise the savory of the dish. Try it with cheese dishes, chicken curries, smoked or pan-fried trout with almonds, delicate seafood dishes like lobster, soba noodles with salmon and sesame seeds, pâté, braised endive, fennel, duck, pork and baked eggplant with crème Fraiche.
If you are looking for the perfect taste, try these popular wine brands under the Marsanne grape variety.
- Château de Beaucastel Blanc,
- Chapoutier Chante Aloutte (which is a blend)
- Peche de Calade
- Chapoutier Ermitage de l’Oree Blanc, Rhone, France
- Chapoutier Ermitage Le Meal Blanc, Rhone, France
- Guigal Ermitage Ex-Voto Blanc, Rhone, France
- Chapoutier Hermitage Chante-Alouette, Rhone, France
Seeing that its popularity is growing, production increasing, and its versatility growing, Marsanne wine can be easily found in the market. One doesn’t need to break the bank to afford a bottle. Its array of styles provides one with a chance to sample a good number and not necessarily for food pairing purposes. Lighter styles and younger wines can be greatly enjoyed on their own to bring refreshments in warm afternoons.
Market synonyms for Marsanne include Marsana Belyi, Marsanne Blanche, Marzanne, Metternich, Piacentina, Avilleran, Ermitage, Ermitageblanc, Hermitage, White Hermitage, Zrmitazh as well as Roussette Grosse.
Thanks for learning about Marsanne with us today! Learn about other wine varieties in Wine on My Times Uncorked series: Uncorked: Auslese Riesling, Uncorked: Liebfraumilch, Uncorked: Lambrusco, and more!
Bottoms up! 🍷