It is rare to find bottlings of 100% Marsanne. The grape does not grow well in most places and, for some, its lower acidity and focus on texture over fruit takes getting used to. But good Marsanne can make an exceptional wine: wax, nuts and spice that develop beautiful intensity and rich honey notes with age. Two of the leading proponents hail from opposite ends of the world: Yves Cuilleron in the Northern Rhone and Tahbilk in Australia.
Cuilleron is a master of white wine – Condrieu in particular. His basic Vin de France, however, are outstanding values and well made, typical examples of Northern Rhone grapes. Part of the Vins de Viennes crowd (with Gaillard and Villard), Cuilleron is modern and forward thinking in outlook, but also honest and true to regional expression and typicite.
Viticulture for the Cuilleron Marsanne is close to organic with no pesticides or insecticides and organic fertilizer. In the cellar the Marsanne sees fermentation in stainless steel and then 6 months aging on lees in vats and barrels.
The wine is clean and vibrant but also classically Marsanne, with honey and nuts and spicy orchard fruit. It is well suited to seafood and delicious for the Vancouver summers.
Very Good+ to Excellent
$40 at Kits Wine
Tahbilk is lucky to own what many believe to be the oldest Marsanne vines in the world. Based on cuttings imported from France pre-phylloxera in the 1800’s, the oldest Marsanne vines at Tahbilk date from 1927.
Unlike other examples of Marsanne from Australia, Tahbilk picks its grapes quite early to preserve acidity. This also results in lower potential alcohol, which usually ranges from 10-12%. Tahbilk is located in a unique region of Victoria called the Nagambie Lakes, which is a region filled with inland lakes that dramatically moderate temperatures. The soils are also an uncommon red sandy loam that contain high levels of ferric-oxide, increasing acidity. It is this combination of soil type with meso-climate that allows Tahbilk’s wines to be uniquely fresh and acid driven.
The Tahbilk old vines Marsanne is a much different expression than Cuilleron. First off it is both fermented in raised in steel. It is also built for the cellar rather than early drinking. With its additional 10 years of bottle age, this was all about lush, waxy texture and extreme caramel/honeyed flavours. However, the wine remained fresh – the age adding complexity and flavour layering. I brought this bottle to Lucais Syme’s new restaurant La Cinara and it worked beautifully with all the seafood dishes. Only 12% ABV.
$45 at Liberty