A Wine Lover’s Guide To The White Marsanne And Roussanne Grapes

The white Marsanne grape variety was first noted in southeastern France. It is found in the northern Rhone Valley of southeastern France, in the Valais region of Switzerland, and in California, where it is a minor grape. Half of the world’s Marsanne grapes are planted in the Golburn Valley of southeastern Australia. Marsanne’s deep colored juice has low acidity, a high level of alcohol, and ages well in oak. In the Rhone Valley Marsanne is often added to Syrah. It is the major variety used in the production of the famous white Crozes-Hermitage and the sparkling and still St. Peray white wines. Marsanne is often blended with Roussane grapes to add aroma and delicacy, producing interesting Rhone Valley white wines. Marsanne often accompanies Crab, Lobster, Chicken, and Veal.

Marsanne wine usually starts at about $10. The French Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage is quite good for the $15 range. This wine is mostly Syrah with some Marsanne. It is peppery with a lot of black currant. If you want unblended Marsanne go for one from The Australian (Goulburn Valley) winery Tahbilk produces a fine Marsanne starting at about $15. The flavors include lemon, honey, and peach, and as the wine ages honeysuckle aroma and flavor develop. If you can find bottles labeled 1927 Vines don’t pass them up, even if you have to pay more than twice the price. These are said to be the oldest Marsanne vines in the world. You are taking a bit of a risk on the still St. Peray and we don’t recommend the sparkling St. Peray, but some people may like it.

Roussanne probably originated in the Cotes du Rhone and Isere Valley region of eastern France. Roussanne is usually found in regions with a Mediterranean climate such as the Upper Rhone Valley of eastern France, and in the Tuscany region of northern Italy.

Roussanne grapes are considered quite hard to raise. Roussanne seldom produces a varietal wine but is blended with Marsanne to produce the famous Rhone Valley Hermitage wines. Roussanne adds acidity, elegance, delicacy and aroma to the Marsanne. Roussanne improves with age. It also produces the thick and viscous vin de paille (straw wine) from the same region and the sparkling wines of Saint Peray. It is a common component in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It is also a component of the Montecarlo Bianco in Tuscany, Italy.

You should try pairing Roussanne-based wines with Crab, Lobster, Turkey, Duck, and Ham. Roussanne wine usually starts at about $10. In this price range try the Chateau Lamargue Costieres de Nimes White which is actually a blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc (50-50). This round wine has peach and melon flavors. From the Central Coast of California you can get a Jaffurs Wine Cellars Roussanne Santa Barbara County in the low twenties. This wine tastes of honeydew and poached pears. Stay in the same region and pay about $30 for a Tablas Creek Vineyard Roussanne with honey, pear and lemon zest flavors, and moderate acidity.

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