It’s the non-Chardonnay for Chardonnay lovers. It’s the often blended counterpart to Roussanne and Viognier. It’s the next white Rhône varietal that you should be sipping. It’s pronounced, mar-SAWN. It’s time to give Marsanne the attention it deserves. It's Wine Wednesday, and time for Rhône 101!
In France, most wines are labelled and celebrated for their geographical designations. Because of this, we often don’t get to appreciate and differentiate the different varietals represented, especially in blended wines. Such is that for the white varietals of the Rhône. While we enjoy the beautiful balance, aromas, and flavors that are produced in a blend, it is important to understand each varietal on it’s own, and know what each varietal contributes to the whole. Lucky for us in Sonoma, we have the good fortune of being surrounded by world class wines, and wines that celebrate the varietal, as well as geographical location. This means we are able to taste and discover specific varietals, including some of the best produced single varietal Marsannes.
Marsanne is one of the most important white wine grapes in the northern Rhône. As mentioned before, it is often blended with Roussanne and Viognier, and occasionally Grenache Blanc. Marsanne on it’s own is full bodied, low in acid, richly colored, and has peach, melon, nutty, and slight spice and pear notes. Adding Marsanne to a blend increases depth and texture to the wine. Because of the flavors, body, and texture of the wine, it is similar to Chardonnay, and is a great way to break the mold and try something new if you are a Chardonnay lover.
As with many grape varietals, the origins of Marsanne are not specific. We know that it probably originated in Northern Rhône, where it continues to grow today. In Northern Rhône, it is generally found in the Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, St.-Joseph, and St.-Péray appellations. Interestingly enough, the first Marsanne plantings in California were done by retired British Army Captain John H. Drummond in the 1870s, in Glen Ellen (home of our original location, now the fig cafe & winebar!). Since then, Marsanne, and Rhône varietals in general, have multiplied across California, especially in the Central Coast and South Coast AVAs.
So, to all of you (Chardonnay lovers - I’m especially looking at you!) I challenge you to try something new this week. Open a bottle and open your mind (and palate!) to a new varietal. You just may love it!
the girl & the fig recommends:
Entree: California Halibut - baby vegetables, roasted potatoes, crispy leeks, beurre blanc.
Wine: Michaud Vineyard, 2015 Chalone Marsanne, Central Coast