Tuesday, December 16, 2014

White Rhone Blend - Marsanne/Roussanne

Marsanne originates in France's Rhone Valley, where it is the mainstay of the whites of this area. It is one of eight white grape varieties allowed in the Côtes du Rhône appellation and forms the foundation of white Hermitage. Unlike Roussanne, it is an aggressive producer with no significant growing problems, and has gradually taken oven the role of blending that traditionally was held in many Rhône appellations by Roussanne. Marsanne vines produce a relatively heavy crop of loosely clustered berries which tend to absorb the mineral flavors of the soils in which it is grown.

Marsanne produces wine which is round and dry with a slight almond and herbal flavor, high alcohol and low acidity. Rich mineral, wax, marzipan and citrus notes are markers at its best. Marsanne is widely planted in Australia, and does especially well in Victoria. It has also found a following in California where it has a nice peachy quality as well as an inherent nuttiness.

Roussanne is a difficult varietal to grow. The russet-colored grapes are susceptible to powdery mildew and rot, they ripen late, and even in the best conditions the vine is a shy producer. Roussanne gives irregular yields, and is easily damaged by wind and drought. If picked underripe or in large crop loads, the resulting wines may be thin and tart. Patient growers are paid handsomely, though. No other varietal gives such unique aromas and vibrant natural acidity.

In the Southern Rhône, Roussanne is one of four white grape varietals permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In the Northern Rhône, Roussanne is frequently blended with Marsanne  in the appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and Saint Joseph to provide acidity, minerality and richness. As a single varietal wine, it reaches its pinnacle as the sole component of Château de Beaucastel’s Roussanne Vieille Vignes. Unlike the foursquare Marsanne, it produces high acid, light-bodied wine with delicate herbal tea, melon and honeysuckle aromas.

Roussanne is also found the Savoie region of France (where it is known as Bergeron), and in limited quantities in Australia and Italy. In the United States, Roussanne is planted in the Central Coast and Sonoma regions of California, as well as in the Yakima Valley of Washington State.

Along the Mediterranean coast in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, Marsanne and Roussanne turn up in wines such as Corbieres Blanc, Minervois Blanc and Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc; Marsanne is found in Provence appellations including Cassis Blanc.

Marsanne: rich mineral, wax, marzipan, peach and citrus notes, high alcohol and low acidity.

Roussanne:  delicate herbal tea, melon and honeysuckle aromas, low alcohol and high acidity.

Marsanne/Roussanne blends: Rhone Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, Victoria, Savoie, Columbia Valley, Sonoma, Sierra Foothills, Central Coast, Santa Barbara.

Chave Hermitage Blanc, Rhone Valley (France)
Marc Sorrel Hermitage Blanc, Rhone Valley (France)
Château de Beaucastel Roussanne Vieille Vignes, Rhone Valley (France)
Domaine de Caillou Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhone Valley (France)
Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, Paso Robles, California (USA)
Alban Roussanne Central Coast California (USA)
Qupe Roussanne, Alban Vineyard, Edna Valley, California (USA)
Peay Vineyards Roussanne/Marsanne, Sonoma Coast, California (USA)
Mitchelton Museum Release Marsanne, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria (Australia)

Best Value
Cotes de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles, California (USA)
Chateau Tahbilk Marsanne, Goulburn Valley, Victoria (Australia)

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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