Week 40 – Marsanne

We tasted: Tahbilk Marsanne 2010, Fortnum & Mason, £16.50

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “Here I am, just home from a work night out and feeling like a large glass of water to dilute the results. Sadly this isn’t going to be the case, 52 Grapes must take priority, especially since this week I had to go to a special effort to search out this rare grape from a shop in London.

I’ve only tasted this wine a few times in my life and it is certainly distinct. If you’ve tasted a mature Semillon from Australia the experience is similar. Andy thought it was oaked and I know exactly why. The ageing characters that come from this grape give a distinct smoky, spicy and candle wax character that is similar to the aromas you get when a wine is oaked.  So much so, that I decided to google the wine to make sure I was correct and it really didn’t have oak. I think Andy still thought I was fibbing.

In total the experience of tasting this wine really lived up to expectations.  It has a brilliant vibrancy of fruit, tropical in character with lime, pineapple aromas along with that waxy and smokey note. Then to taste it has more of the zesty lime, a bit of mango and papaya along with a creamy richness and that similar waxy overtone. It feels like a dry Riesling that isn’t as pithy or acidic and more soft in tropical fruit but with equal dimension. It makes me wish more people would have a play with Marsanne, it is a grape with real character that is overlooked and would add more interest to the wine world. And what an age worthy grape, given it has eight years of age, this wine is still showing real vibrancy of fruit that is really impressive.”

Andy says: “My initial reaction was, ‘Well, that’s got some oak on it’. How wrong I was.

This example is their ‘Museum Release’, which means the wine is held back until it begins to age, and the wine becomes richer and rounder. The results of the ageing can fool an amateur taster like myself that the wine had sat in some oak.

Emma came home and I said ‘It’s very oaky’. She had one sip, ‘Hmmm, no I think it’s age’. It was quite annoying, but hopefully it was prior knowledge of the grape/winery and not some sort of super hero skill.

Taste wise, I was a little disappointed at first as there wasn’t much going on. It was just flat and dull, and very linear, no peaks or troughs at all. But, it was fresh out the fridge, and once it had warmed a little it opened up and I could get the spicy honeysuckle notes that the tasting notes say you should. Slightly oily in texture, and quite dry too. It could do with a bit more zing for me, but a very nice wine all in all, and good test for a noob.”

Buying Guide

Marsanne is a grape that heralds from the Rhone region of France. In the Northern Rhone it takes centre stage party blended with Roussanne; look out for St Joseph or Hermitage whites for this style, be warned they are pricey. For this reason we will seek out a producer in Australia known for this this grape, Tahbilk. They make a 100% Marsanne that will give us the best chance to really taste its character.

3 thoughts to “Week 40 – Marsanne”

  1. Domaine Pierre Gaillard Saint Joseph Blanc, 2016 (Le Bon Vin £24)

    I have to say I had real trouble finding a single varietal Marsanne, so had to get one that was blended with a little Roussanne.

    The colour was a lovely golden yellow.

    To me, this wine smelt exactly like a buttery, oaked Chardonnay, with a hint of saltiness, but on tasting it there seemed to be a massive hole where you would normally expect the Chardonnay taste to be. Instead there was a beautiful musky creaminess and a convergence of ripe mango, mustard seeds and celery salt, that totally took me by surprise. Because of this it felt both familiar and different at the same time.

    It had a lovely long, soft finish, and very little acidity. I’m not sure if it was oaked or not, but going by the age of this wine compared to yours, I would assume that ageing was not the reason.

    This was a very nice wine; I am still trying to get a single-varietal version, just to compare notes, but in the meantime, I will be visiting this particular wine again.

  2. I tried the identical Tahbilk Marsanne 2010 (£16.50, Fortnum & Mason). The label was packed with interesting information about the historic Marsanne vines, the bottle ageing and the zero carbon production.

    The wine was a really bright, deep yellow (verging on the fluorescent) with a slight greeny tinge. The nose was very interesting with oodles and oodles of that waxy, pencil eraser thing. The waxiness was very distinctive and strong, but there was also an array of fruit – white flowers, lime, pear, papaya, kumquat – once it opened out.

    The palate was fresh and dry. It was quite rich with an oily texture and that same distinct waxy overtone. There were similar fruity tastes to the nose – particularly lime and papaya. The flavours weren’t intense, but very well balanced with a good lingering length. I found that once it warmed-up the palate developed and got better and better. Some delicate spices appeared and even something a bit like tarragon that I couldn’t fully put my finger on. I really liked it – the oily-bitter, gorgeous finish in particular.

    This wine was everything I could have wished for after the last week’s Arneis disappointment. It was completely unlike anything I’ve tasted before. I can imagine that a lot of people wouldn’t enjoy the very waxy flavour but I loved it, especially the finish which was negligible at first but just got better and better. My kind of wine and one to buy more of!

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