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What is Marsanne?

Marsanne is one of the world’s rarest grape varieties. Its home is France’s Rhone Valley and it is only grown in three other countries – Switzerland, the USA and Australia.

Its most famous role is in the white wines from the famed hill of Hermitage, but it is here in Australia where you will find the largest and oldest single planting of the variety in the world.


Marsanne In Australia

Tahbilk in the central Victorian region of Nagambie is the unchallenged king of Marsanne in Australia. In fact, there is no other winery in Australia as strongly tied to a variety.

The Marsanne-Tahbilk relationship started in the 1860s with the sourcing of ‘White Hermitage’ cuttings from the ‘St Hubert’s’ Vineyard in Victoria’s Yarra Valley. Those vines didn’t survive, but today Tahbilk still produces Marsanne from plantings dating back to 1927.

Tahbilk Marsanne has a unique ability to age gracefully in the bottle and a number of older vintages are still providing superb drinking.

Despite Tahbilk’s dominance, there are many other wineries across the country that work with Marsanne, often blending it with other Rhone Valley whites such as Viognier and Roussanne to great success.

It can also be found in tiny amounts in some Shiraz wines, mirroring French co-fermenting practices.


Did you Know?

Marsanne has a unique relationship with Roussanne. They are often blended together, with Marsanne giving good weight and structure, Roussanne adding perfume and flavour. 

In fact, DNA research suggests that Marsanne has a parent-offspring relationship with Roussanne.


Marsanne Characters

In its youth, Marsanne is light in colour and body with a fresh acid backbone. Aromas and flavours of citrus fruits and stone fruits are common alongside the signature character of honeysuckle.

Aged Marsanne will be a deeper colour in the glass with the honeysuckle and stone fruit becoming more apparent. The wine can have a similar body to that of Chardonnay.

Marsanne can handle the influence of oak and these wines show a creamy texture that adds an extra dimension.


Food Pairing with Marsanne

Marsanne is very versatile when it comes to food pairing. Younger wines with their energy and freshness suit light salads, shellfish and white fish.

Richer aged Marsanne suits richer foods such as roasted poultry, oily fish, creamy pasta and lightly spiced curries.


Why Choose Marsanne?

Marsanne remains one of Australia’s most underrated varieties. But because of this, it is also one of the best value wines.

The ace up its sleeve is its versatility. It can be full of life and energy and offer an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot G and Riesling.

Marsanne can also offer mouthfeel and texture and with white wines with texture becoming increasing popular, Marsanne sits in a great position.

Words by
Adam Walls
Photography by
Hendrika Stekhoven-Smith
Published on
10 Sep 2019


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