Marsanne is a green grape from France, sometimes also called Ermitage.
Marsanne is considered a low-aromatic grape. Hence it is commonly used for blending, and its main contribution is sweetness. It is also known for low acidity, meaning it has problems in performing well in warm climate.
Flavours are sweet flowers and melon, sometimes with a bit of minerality. If aged, you can expect an oxidation like development, meaning dark golden colours and nutty aromas and flavours with a high degree of sweetness.
In the Rhône Valley, Marsanne is often blended with Roussanne or Viognier. There you will also find a kind of Marsanne varietal called Vin de Paille.
“Paille” means straw in French, and the grapes are left to dry on straw mats, similar to what is done in several regions in Italy. It takes up to eight kilos / seventeen point five pounds of grapes (!) to make one bottle of wine. It can be left for fermentation for up to seven (!) years before bottling. For this kind of wine, the residual sugar varies between 150-170 grams/litre.
If you want to find a nice dry varietal Marsanne wine, look for one that comes from a growth place where the climate is not too warm, or is on a bit of altitude. Switzerland’s Valais region could be such a place.
Being low in aromas and acidity means a young, dry varietal Marsanne wine can be a nice pairing for a green salad, or why not a Caesar’s Salad. The wine is best served at 8-10°C/46-50°F.
A white Hermitage will, due to its concentration and rich oiliness, be a very nice companion to something creamy and / or a shellfish of fish dish. The wine is best served at 10-12°C/50-54°F.
An aged (e.g. between ten to fifteen years) Marsanne dry varietal is a very sweet, thus it is best paired with a desert, for example with berries. The wine is best served at approximately 14°C/57°F.
Where is it grown?
In France, Marsanne is planted above all in the Rhône Valley (700 ha/1,739 ac) and Languedoc-Roussillon (572 ha/1,413 ac).
This corresponds to ninety-three percent of the country’s total acreage of 1.362 ha/3,364 ac (an increase of 14% in ten years), placing it as the fifty-second most planted grape in the country.
Apart from France, Marsanne is reported to be grown in eight countries. It is however only in Australia that the variety has an acreage of some size. With 238 ha/588 ac (corresponding to an increase of ten percent in ten years), Marsanne is the twenty-ninth most planted grape in the country. Riverina (some 700 km north-east of Perth) and Goulborn Valley (some 200 km north-east of Melbourne) are the sub-zones with the largest plantings.
The following countries report of plantings of 55 ha/136 ac or less; Italy, Switzerland, USA, Chile, Canada, Uruguay, and Argentina.
The most likely birthplace for Marsanne is in the Rhône Valley in the area east of Tain-Hermitage called Drôme. It has been documented for more than two-hundred years.