This grape is relatively new to the “varietal scene”, as one of the white wine grapes that is helping, along with Viognier and Roussanne, to increase the visibility and popularity of “Rhône-style” wines in California in particular and the United States in general.
Its probable origin is the northern Rhône region and it is one of eight white grape varieties allowed in the Côtes du Rhône appellation. Offering greater productivity and intriguingly different aromas, it has gradually taken oven the role of blending that traditionally was held in many Rhône appellations by Roussanne. Besides fairly recent and limited plantings in California, Australia has less than 250 acres of vineyards planted to Marsanne, although some date back a century or more.
While the vines are relatively hardy, the grapes hangs in winged, long, well-filled, and compact clusters. This leaves the fruit susceptible to powdery mildew (odium), bunch rot, berry cracking and excessive juicing at harvest. Marsanne grapes tend to be low in acidity, so both must and wine have tendencies to oxidation and browning. This grape’s varietal character has little tolerance for weather that is either too cool or too warm and bland, simply vinous wine will result.
The round, medium-gold to amber Marsanne berries make deep-colored wine that is also fairly full-bodied, sometimes described as almost “waxy”. Where growing conditions are right, Marsanne aromas can suggest almond paste or citrus, mixed with perfume or model airplane cement. Low aciditiy means Marsanne wine is best consumed young.
The eight white varieties permitted in Côtes du Rhône are Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Muscat Blanc, Picardan, Roussanne, and Viognier.