Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Marsanne, widely dispersed pale-skinned vine variety, making full-bodied, scented white wines. Probably originating in the northern rhône, it has all but taken over here from its traditional blending partner and probable close relative roussanne in such appellations as st-joseph, st-péray (where it is sometimes known as Roussette), crozes-hermitage, and, to a slightly lesser extent, hermitage itself, where wines such as chapoutier’s Chante Alouette show that the variety can make exceptionally good wines for ageing. The vine’s relative productivity has doubtless been a factor in its popularity, and modern winemaking techniques have helped mitigate Marsanne’s tendency to flab. It is increasingly planted in the south of France, where, as well as being embraced as an ingredient in most appellations, it is earning itself a reputation as a full-bodied, characterful varietal, or a blending partner for more aromatic, acid varieties such as Roussanne, viognier, and rolle. The wine is particularly deep coloured, full bodied with a heady, if often heavy, aroma of glue, sometimes honeysuckle, verging occasionally on almonds, sometimes bitter in youth. It is not one of the chosen varieties for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in which grenache blanc supplies many of Marsanne’s characteristics, but France’s total plantings had grown to 1,515 ha/3,742 acres by 2011—mainly in the Rhône valley but supplemented by plantings in Languedoc-Roussillon. A little is planted in Italy and Switzerland, where as Ermitage it produces both light, dry and complex sweet wines in the Valais, but even more interest has been generated in California as part of the rhône rangers movement, although total acreage was only just over 100 acres/40 ha in 2012. Australia has some of the world’s oldest Marsanne vineyards, notably in the state of Victoria, and a fine tradition of valuing this Rhône import and the hefty wines it produces, which have sometimes developed relatively fast in bottle. Total plantings had fallen to under 200 ha/500 acres by 2012, however.