One of France’s most popular white wine grapes, Marsanne has also attracted a huge following in the US, Australia, and Europe. While traditional Marsanne white wine is dry with earthy notes, winemakers have experimented with exotic blends creating delectable styles packed with fruit and nut aromas.
It reaches it’s best expression in the Hermitage wine region of France where it is blended to craft elegant whites.
So, what are the different styles of Marsanne wine? Which bottles of this elegant wine should you buy?
This Article Contains:
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- Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage ‘Vin de Paille’, 1990 ($1315)
- M. Chapoutier Ermitage 'L'Ermite Blanc' 2016 ($808)
- M. Chapoutier Ermitage ‘Vin de Paille’, 2010 ($539)
- E. Guigal Ermitage ‘Ex-Voto Blanc’, 2009 ($420)
- M. Chapoutier Ermitage ‘de l'Oree Blanc’, 2017 ($400)
- M. Chapoutier Ermitage ‘Le Meal Blanc’, 2010 ($349)
- M. Chapoutier Hermitage ‘Chante-Alouette’, 2015 ($126)
- Domaine du Colombier Hermitage Blanc, 2007 ($100)
Marsanne Wine: A Quick Overview
This white wine grape variety is believed to have originated in Cotes du Rhone of the Northern Rhône region in France.
Marsanne wine is sometimes considered a perfect Chardonnay substitute. Though of good weight and structure, the grape is seldom used to make single varietal wines. This is attributed in part to its faint flavor and perfume.
The grape is an excellent blending companion to Roussanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc.
In France, Marsanne is often blended with its more aromatic cousin Roussanne, while internationally, its favored companion is Viognier. This Northern Rhône valley wine is also one of the components permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. Celebrated Rhone wines like the Hermitage whites are Marsanne blends as well.
Some of the renowned winemakers that make Marsanne wine include:
- M. Chapoutier
- Denis Mercier
- E. Guigal
- Jean-Louis Chave
- John Duval
- Tablas Creek
- JC Cellars Qupé
- Sine Qua Non
Now, let’s dive into the history of Marsanne.
A Brief History Of Marsanne
Marsanne blends from the Hermitage appellation became quite popular in the 17th century.
In 1860, Marsanne arrived in Australia and quickly became a widely grown white wine grape variety across the country. The Tahbilk Marsanne vines are some of the oldest in Australia.
The advent of Marsanne plantations in the United States began in the 1980s with the Rhone Ranger movement. The oldest Marsanne vineyards are in Paso Robles and the Central Coast in California. The notable California Marsanne winemaker Tablas Creek had a pivotal role in promoting the Rhone blends in the United States.
Besides Marsanne, other Rhone varietals such as Roussanne, Syrah, and Viognier also became popular in the US in later years.
Cultivation of Marsanne in the Northern Rhone region has accelerated in the last 50 years as growers have begun to substitute Roussanne plantings with it.
Interestingly, it has only recently gained popularity in the southern Rhône region.
Now let’s look at all the major regions where the world’s Marsanne vines grow today.
Where is Marsanne Grown?
89% of the world’s Marsanne plantings is in France with a total of 3665 acres of vineyard lands.
Even though it is native to the Northern Rhone valley in Cotes du Rhone, it is also found in the Languedoc and Savoie wine regions of France.
In the surrounding areas with cooler climates, the grape is used for still and sparkling wine. Some of these appellations include:
Other varieties like the California Marsanne are also popular. The important Marsanne regions outside France are:
- Canada: British Columbia
- United States: California (Central Coast and Paso Robles), Washington state, New Jersey, and Michigan
- Australia: Barossa valley and Victoria
- New Zealand: North Island
- Switzerland: Valais
- Spain: Northeast region
Let’s take a closer look at the nature of this white grape variety.
Marsanne grapes are small in size and grow in loose bunches. The vines thrive in cooler climates with sparse rainfall. Excessive humidity may cause Marsanne vines to develop mildew while hot summers can lead to a loss of acidity and a muted flavour in the grapes.
The Northern Rhone Valley vineyard soils are a mixture of clay, granite, chalk, and limestone
Marsanne vines have great longevity and are high-yielding in their youth. Once the berries reach ripeness, they turn brownish gold in color. The picking time is crucial as overripe grapes are known to have low acidity.
So what does the wine taste like?
Marsanne Wine Taste and Food Pairings
The wine has crisp acidity and primary flavors of honeysuckle, quince, and melon. When blended, it develops a fuller body with notes of pear, roasted nuts, and spice. The white Rhone blends are usually aged in oak barrels to lend them more body.
At the Californian winery Tablas Creek, Marsanne grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks to enhance the wine’s minerality.
A young Marsanne sweet wine has delicious fruity and floral flavors. The older vintages tend to develop honey and caramel tasting notes. The alcohol by volume (ABV) is in the range of 13.5 to 15%.
To enhance the wine’s flavors, serve it slightly chilled at 7-12°C.
Marsanne is an excellent complement to rich seafood dishes like lobster, crab, salmon, and shrimp which highlight the citrusy notes of the Marsanne grapes. It also pairs well with cream sauces, spicy dishes, and cheese platters.
Do Marsanne Wines Age Well?
Marsanne and Marsanne-Roussanne blend wines are known to age well. They usually reach their peak maturity 10 years after the vintage. The White Hermitage blend is an exception and can age in your cellar for over 20 years.
The younger vintages have a pale yellow color while the older ones acquire dark golden hues.
Now, here are the best Marsanne wines you can buy this year.
Best Marsanne Wines to Buy in 2021 (Including Prices, Tasting Notes)
Some of our favorites are:
1. Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage ‘Vin de Paille’, 1990
Coppery orange in color, this sweet wine has notes of apricot, tangerine, flowers, and honeysuckle. This Hermitage wine has hints of roasted nuts offset the tropical fruit flavor.
This sweet but balanced wine improves as it sits in the glass for some time.
Price of Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage ‘Vin de Paille’, 1990: $1,315
2. M. Chapoutier Ermitage 'L'Ermite Blanc', 2016
This young vintage has a brilliant yellowish straw hue. The gentle aroma reveals complex notes of vanilla, dried fruits, almonds, and linden tree. The palate has a subtle flavour of melon, white peach, and apricot.
This vintage has a well-rounded elegant balance and a gorgeously long finish.
Price of M. Chapoutier Ermitage ‘L’Ermite Blanc’, 2016: $808
3. M. Chapoutier Ermitage ‘Vin de Paille’, 2010
This blend has an exuberant, bright gold color. The wine has pear, peach, and honey aromas, accompanied by a palate of anise, ginger, and nutmeg.
It projects excellent depth and clarity, with a note of orange peel at the back-end.
Price of M. Chapoutier Ermitage ‘Vin de Paille’, 2010: $539
4. E. Guigal Ermitage ‘Ex-Voto Blanc’, 2009
The Ex-Voto Blanc is a stellar white Hermitage blend. This is a true specimen of richness and intensity married to buttery tropical fruit with hints of spice, oak, honeysuckle, spring flowers, and orange marmalade.
The wine has a greenish hue, unique to this vintage.
Price of E. Guigal Ermitage ‘Ex-Voto Blanc’, 2009: $420
5. M. Chapoutier Ermitage ‘de l'Oree Blanc’, 2017
The exceptional Ermitage ‘de l’Oree Blanc’ combines aromas of struck flint with honey, pear, and baking spices. It is a full-bodied but balanced Marsanne with layered fruit flavors. This blend will reach its peak maturity after aging for a couple of decades.
Price of M. Chapoutier Ermitage ‘de l’Oree Blanc’, 2017: $400
6. M. Chapoutier Ermitage ‘Le Meal Blanc’, 2010
The 2010 Ermitage le Meal Blanc is a concentrated and thrilling white. It is an elegant combination of crème caramel, caramelized peach, crushed rock, and smoke.
Unlike other vintages, it offers a surprising medley of fruit and nut flavors. This exquisite Ermitage has crisp acidity and longevity of over 50 years.
Price of M. Chapoutier Ermitage ‘Le Meal Blanc’, 2010: $349
7. M. Chapoutier Hermitage ‘Chante-Alouette’, 2015
The appearance of brilliant green gold in the bottle makes this an attractive vintage. On the nose, it has a subtle but complex aroma of quince and honey with a hint of ginger.
This Marsanne wine has a final note of almond with a good lengthy finish.
Price of M. Chapoutier Hermitage ‘Chante-Alouette’, 2015: $126
8. Domaine du Colombier Hermitage Blanc, 2007
This golden-hued vintage has a distinct peppermint note over yellow peach, quince, crystal fruit, and nut flavors. Once brought to room temperature, floral, honeysuckle notes emerge from the wine. Secondary flavors include hints of mandarin with honey and almond notes.
Price of Domaine du Colombier Hermitage Blanc, 2007 ($100)
Surely, Marsanne wines are a great accompaniment to your dinner and some of them can age beautifully in your cellar.
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