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Marsanne wine styles, characteristics and food pairing

Marsanne wine styles, characteristics and food pairing

When folks come to visit us at our Cellar Door, it's always such a pleasure to share with them the different wine styles and characteristics of the varietal Marsanne. One of the extra delights is to see their faces when they taste young Marsanne versus aged Marsanne and see the surprise of the transformative party trick Marsanne loves to make! 

We've answered some of the most frequently asked questions, however, if we've missed anything or you'd like to know more please get in touch, we'd love to hear from you!

What sort of wine is Marsanne? 

Marsanne is a traditional white wine grape variety originally from Rhône Valley in France. It was first mentioned in 1781 in a description of Hermitage white wine. It has been thought that the varietal was most likely named after the commune of Marsanne near Montélimar in the Drôme, its most probable birthplace. Principal synonyms include Avilleran, Ermitage or Hermitage, Grosse Roussette, Marsanne Blanche and Roussette de Saint-Péray.

Marsanne wine Australia

Tahbilk Winery is located in Nagambie Lakes Central Victoria where the long, slow growing season of around 20-21°C provides good conditions for Marsanne to grow. Marsanne is typically late budding, mid ripening vigorous with large bunches with small berries that will turn golden brown when close to ripening. Although not widely known in Australia, Tahbilk is home to the largest single planting in the world.

What does Marsanne taste like?

This is when we ask for a tasting of some of the best Marsannes of the world! There are some top producers from northern Rhône appellations such as Saint-Péray, Saint Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage. It would be quite typical for these wines to be blended with its blending partner Roussanne and for there to be some French oak in the winemaking process. Marsanne wines have moderate acidity with flavours ranging from rich almond paste to honeysuckle.

Brendan Freeman, our Winemaker explained that "As the Marsanne grapes ripen they lose their acidity, and therefore structure and so to add the structure back in, winemakers would traditionally rely on phenolics that get built back into the wine." However, here at Tahbilk, we look to a more modern winemaking technique, which focuses purely on the fruit. We use stainless steel tank fermentation, which lets the fruit sing, and it has created a distinctive Tahbilk house style.

Current Vintage Marsanne

Tahbilk Marsanne between 1-3 years is a fresh and vibrant dry white wine with flavours of citrus lime and honeysuckle. The 2021 vintage has been tried and tested by James Halliday who said:

"The Nagambie Lakes shared the great vintage for whites, and Tahbilk didn't miss out here, oozing with honeysuckle, lime and custard apple, the signature of acidity neatly tying the parcel up for now or in a decade or two. It's a dead set good medal." ~ James Halliday | top 100 wines of 2021 for wines under au$30

Museum Release Marsanne

When cellared, Marsanne develops complexity with toast and orange blossom on the nose and rich textures of marmalade, cashew or roasted nuts, a bit of spice and baked apple flavours on the palate.  It develops into a full-bodied white wine as time in the bottle allows it to age gracefully. The colour will start to darken to beautiful golden hues.

The palate is rich and complex with a long finish. It's a real treat. Bottle ageing is where the magic happens. You'll have much enjoyment deciphering when it is best to crack it open. Tahbilk Estate Marsanne can be cellared for 20 years, depending on your preference. Have a play with cellaring Marsanne opening bottles at different stages of its life. It's one of the best ways to enjoy this wine.

If you haven't the time or patience to cellar your wine, then look to Tahbilk's Museum Collection. Cellared in the 1875 underground cellar at Tahbilk, these wines are released between 5-10 years of age and are particularly interesting. Museum wines are available through the Tahbilk Wine Club and Tahbilk Cellar Door.

1927 Vines Marsanne

The 1927 Vines Marsanne has an interesting story. Alister Purbrick, CEO & Winemaker at Tahbilk, states, "These wines will be at their best as 30 to 50-year-old wines and match the best in the world."

The winemaking process of the 1927 Vines Marsanne is very primitive. We borrowed an ancient technique that sets apart its style from the Estate Marsanne. The fruit is hand-harvested very early in the season to around 10-11% alcohol to retain as much acidity, which means it has a high acid backbone resulting in what is known as Wine Water, it has high acid and no flavour.

All the magic happens in the bottle, which takes around six or seven years. Over time it evolves into a wonderful textural mineral wine. It has a classic ugly duckling to beautiful swan story. Making the wine this way develops in the bottle slowly and has incredible long-term cellaring potential. One for collectors for sure!  The 1927 Vines Marsanne wine is said to have a bit of a cult following and is the best expression of Tahbilk Marsanne. Look out for the museum release of this wine.

What's the best way to serve Marsanne?

For the perfect sip, serve Tahbilk Marsanne at 10-13°C. The younger vintages are best suited a little cooler, while the aged wines appreciate the temperature to be a little warmer to allow the aromas to lift out of the glass.

What does Marsanne Pair with?

Marsanne is often called the most 'food-friendly' of all white wines. What's more, Marsanne is an incredibly versatile wine and offers different textural qualities across its various expressions. This varietal shines when paired with food; The classic pairing would be white fish or pan-fried trout. Roasted chicken is another great food pairing, although a creamy goat cheese and light salad with almonds and grilled artichokes would be a treat with this wine, enjoy!