WINE SCHOOL 11 - 17 November 2019

REGION: Australia > Victoria > Goulburn Valley

30 miles north of Melbourne, the Goulburn Valley is one of Victoria's largest wine districts and encompasses the NAGAMBIE LAKES sub-region (home to the impressive Mitchelton and Tahbilk wineries). There are plenty of old vines and a great diversity of grape varieties here, producing beefy, intense reds and distinctive, aromatic whites.

Key red grapes: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon
Key white grapes: Marsanne, Riesling, Verdelho, Viognier

GRAPE: Marsanne

Marsanne is often used as a reliable, if bland, base for blended wines: adding a bit of weight, perhaps, but little in the way of aromatic excitement. However the grape is capable of better things and carefully-tended vines can create age-worthy wines of significant complexity and refinement.

Getting to grips with Marsanne requires a bit of effort. For a start it's not a commonly encountered variety. And when you do track it down it's more often than not as part of a blend, for example with Rousanne and Viognier in wines from the Rhône.

Australia is the country to turn to find wines where Marsanne is more than an understudy. Examples I've tried from Victoria and McLaren Vale give some indication of Marsanne's personality. Melon, honeysuckle, stone fruit and lemon may register on first sniff. In the mouth it's fuller than expected: round and soft (but not flabby) and a little bit waxy (in a good way). Then at the end there's just the right amount of acidity to form an entirely appropriate full stop. Good quality Marsanne with a fews years' bottle age may add very appealing hints of honey, quince and hazelnuts to the mix, making a lovely wine for enjoying on its own.

Marsanne hasn't really caught on outside of France and Australia, but there are pockets being cultivated by devoted enthusiasts in parts of Switzerland, northern Italy and the USA.

Synonyms: Grosse Roussette (France - Savoie), Ermitage / Ermitage Blanc (Switzerland - Valais), Marsana (Spain)


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