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Home | White Varieties | Marsanne - Always a Bridesmaid, Neve . . .

Marsanne - Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride

Marsanne (mahr sen) is a widely planted white grape variety in the northern reaches of the Rhone Valley in France.  Thought to have originated near the village bearing the same name, Marsanne traces its roots to the Middle Ages.   During the seventeenth century Marsanne wines from Hermitage were recognized worldwide, and Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1791 that white Hermitage was “the first wine in the world without a single exception”.  Despite the visibility, Marsanne was frequently a blending partner with its twin sister white grape Roussanne, or red grape varieties from the Rhone.  After leaving France and becoming established in Australia and more recently in the United States, maybe finally this under appreciated white will have a chance at the altar.

Where does Marsanne Grow?

- Marsanne is widely planted in the northern Rhone.  Since only the Vin du Pays wines of France commonly mention the grape variety,

finding Marsanne at your local wine shop can be, as often is the case with French wine, challenging.  Marsanne is a permitted grape variety in several Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC), including some Syrah based red blends.  Single varietal AOC wines are less common, and the most well-known blends that include Marsanne are those from the AOCs of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Saint Joseph and Saint Peray.  Marsanne (up to 15%) is also permitted in red wines from Hermitage.

South of Hermitage is the AOC of Crozes-Hermitage, notable for the large amount of cooperative wine. Cave de Tain, and Jaboulet are two large cooperatives and are responsible for a range of premium wines, both blends and single varietal Marsanne.  In Saint Peray, Marsanne is used for both still and sparkling wine production.

Marsanne is less prevalent in the southern Rhône although it is one of the eight white grapes permitted in the Côtes du Rhône appellation and is a contributor to the well-known blends of Bourboulenc, Viognier, Marsanne and Clairette from Coudelet de Beaucastel.

Marsanne's final homes within the French borders are in Savoie in the far Eastern region of the Rhone Alps, and in Languedoc Roussillon where it is often blended with Viognier.

Producers to look for: Domaine Yves Cuilleron Saint-Joseph Blanc Le Lombard, 2008 E. Guigal Saint-Joseph Blanc Lieu-Dit Saint-Joseph, Cave de Tain, Jaboulet.

Australia - Although tracing its roots to France, Marsanne has a long history in Australia.  In 1860 Melbourne businessman John Pinney Bear formed a company that was to later become Tabilk one of the best known Marsanne producers in the world.  Today there are over 300 acres of Marsanne planted in Australia, many that date back for decades.  The warmer climates of Australia allow for longer hang time of the grapes on the vines, often leading to a more alcohol rich wine.

Producers to look for:  Tahbilk, Thomas Mitchell, Mitchelton, Cranswick Estate.

United States – Like many Rhone varietals, Marsanne has been given a boost in California by the Rhone Rangers movement, although the tradition of blending with Roussanne and Viognier continues.  In Washington State plantings of Marsanne continue to increase although still remaining in the tens of acres and used in blends such as Kana Winery's Masterpiece. 

Producers to look for: Qupe (California), Tablas Creek (California), Beckman (California), Rosenblum (California),McCrea (Washington), Kana Winery (Washington).

Marsanne Styles

Marsanne wines can age gracefully for years, and the wine's profile changes considerably with time.  Young Marsanne wines are light straw in color and the nose is characterized with peach, melon, and apricots.  Rhone wines often have a noticeable element of minerality. 

With age, the color deepens to a straw yellow, and the wine develops in complexity with elements of nuttiness, honey, spice and quince.

Marsanne is medium bodied with a full mouth feel.  Marsanne tends to be high in alcohol, with levels in excess of 14% common.

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·  Roussanne - A Case of Mistaken Identity
·  Chablis
·  France Birthplace of Wine
·  Chardonnay


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