Hailing from France’s Northern Rhône, marsanne has found a notable home in Australia. Although the concentration of vines may not be significant, Victoria’s Tahbilk have successfully championed it as a standalone variety and are said to be in possession of the world’s oldest vines, while others are employing it in Rhône-themed blends.
Also known as
There are no synonyms for marsanne that are likely to confuse the wine drinker.
What marsanne tastes like
Marsanne’s flavour profile varies quite significantly depending on ripeness and age. Picked lean, it can verge on the neutral, with citrus and cool stone fruit developing as it ripens, and it becomes almost opulent when quite ripe, with cooked pear and apple, spice notes and deep colour, while lower acidity gives it an oiliness. With age, marsanne famously develops a strong honeysuckle character. That character can fleetingly be present when young, but it is with age that it really takes the lead.
Vineyard & winemaking
A slightly fickle vine, marsanne needs ideal conditions to flourish, with acidity commonly lost in warmer sites, where the fruit can become flabby and broad. While it can be bottled solo, marsanne is commonly blended with its Rhône siblings, roussanne and viognier. It can be made either with or without oak, with richer expressions, blended or not, of sufficient intensity to support barrel maturation.
Where is marsanne grown?
Almost always mentioned in partnership with roussanne, marsanne is the key white variety of France’s Northern Rhône, occupying the lion’s share of most whites produced under the Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph blanc banners. It is also an allowable addition, along with roussanne, to red wines in those appellations, though that practice is increasingly uncommon. Unlike roussanne, marsanne is uncommon in the Southern Rhône, and not allowed at all for Châteauneuf-du-Pape whites. This is primarily to do with its performance in warmer climates, with diminished acidity and broadness of fruit, though it does feature in whites of the Languedoc. Marsanne also contributes to blends in the Savoie and is grown in Switzerland.
Marsanne around the world
A less reliable viticultural prospect, marsanne is not widely distributed in the New World, though notable plantings are present in California, often as an adjunct to other Rhône varieties, and there are increasing plantings further north in Washington State and Canada.
Marsanne in Australia
Australia is home to some of the oldest marsanne vines in the world, possibly the oldest. On the banks of Central Victoria’s Goulburn River, Tahbilk’s 1927 vines represent our most senior planting of the variety, which was first introduced to the region in the 1860s from the Yarra Valley. It is in the Riverina, though, that it is most prevalent, having about 60 per cent of the Australia’s marsanne vines. At a little over 160 hectares for the entire nation, that’s not a huge amount of fruit, and in fact represents a significant decline from a high of 275 hectares in 2002. As happens in France, much of Australia’s marsanne is blended with roussanne and/or viognier, though Tahbilk have long championed it solo, both as a democratically priced everyday offering, which also ages very well, as well as a more serious expression from those old vines.
Some of the best Australian marsanne
Marli Russel by Mount Mary (blend)
Place of Changing Winds