Marsanne

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Grape Variety

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Marsanne (also known as Ermitage) is a white wine-grape variety from the Rhône Valley, perhaps best known for its role in the celebrated whites of Hermitage. It is also found in Savoie and Switzerland, where it is known as Ermitage, and has been warmly adopted as a specialist curio in both Australia and the United States – most notably California and Washington.

Marsanne wines generally possess good weight and structure, but often lack any depth of perfume and flavour. This explains the long-standing Rhône Valley tradition of blending the variety with its more aromatic cousin Roussanne. Together this duo form the core of white wines from both Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph and the sparkling whites of Saint-Péray. Both are also key ingredients in white Côtes du Rhône wines, usually alongside Grenache Blanc and Viognier.

Although dry styles of Marsanne are more common, some of the very finest examples are sweet, and made from dried grapes. The most famous example of this is probably Chapoutier's Hermitage Vin de Paille, but many excellent-quality Ermitage Fletri wines are produced each year in the Swiss Valais.

Marsanne is most famously found in varietal form outside of France. The grape first made its way to Australia in the 1860s and was planted in the states of Victoria and South Australia. The Tahbilk winery was among the first to grow Marsanne in the Nagambie Lakes district, and now boasts what may be the oldest productive Marsanne vines in the world, which were planted in 1927. Old-vine Marsanne has the potential to age for up to 15 years and can develop deep amber colours and nutty, orange-marmalade flavours.

In hot climates, Marsanne can struggle to develop enough acidity to prevent its weight from muting its flavour, but cooler climates can produce complex and age-worthy wine. In their youth, Marsanne wines are typically coloured with straw-like hues, and even fleeting golden-green glints. On the nose the best examples have a slightly earthy minerality, lifted by notes of honeysuckle and melon.
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