Cave de Tain Marsanne 2016
Nearly synonymous with fine wine and all things epicurean, France has a culture of wine production and consumption that is deeply rooted in tradition. Many of the world’s most beloved grape varieties originated here, as did the concept of “terroir”—soil type, elevation, slope and mesoclimate combine to produce resulting wines that convey a sense of place. Accordingly, most French wine is labeled by geographical location, rather than grape variety. So a general understaning of which grapes correspond to which regions can be helpful in navigating all of the types of French wine. Some of the greatest wine regions in the world are here, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône and Champagne, but each part of the country has its own specialties and strengths.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the king and queen of Burgundy, producing elegant red and white wines with great acidity, the finest examples of which can age for decades. The same two grapes, along with Pinot Meunier, are used to make Champagne.
Of comparable renown is Bordeaux, focused on bold, structured red blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc including sometimes a small amount of Petit Verdot or Malbec. The primary white varieties of Bordeaux are Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
Most of these grape varieties are planted throughout the country and beyond, extending their influence into other parts of Europe and New World appellations.
One of the star whites of the Rhône Valley and ubiquitous throughout southern France, historically vignerons have favored Marsanne for its hardy and productive vines but it is not merely a workhorse variety. It actually produces some of the finest and most age-worthy whites available in the world today. Marsanne can make a fruity and delicious single varietal wine as well as a serious, full-bodied version with amazing aging potential. Its best examples come from the northern Rhone appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and St.-Joseph, where it is also blended with Roussanne. Throughout the south of France, Marsanne is often found in blends with Viognier, Rolle and even Chardonnay.
In the Glass
Marsanne has a great deal of depth and texture. Common characteristics include sweet pear, white peach, roasted nuts, white flowers and spice. When aged well it can have an attractive, silky and somewhat oily texture.
Lobster, Alaskan King Crab, grilled shrimp, any pork, chicken or veal will be delicious with Marsanne or Marsanne blends. You can also try it with cream sauces and spicy dishes!
Some of the oldest Marsanne vines in the entire world exist not in France but in Australia, in the Victoria region (in southeast Australia where the climate is relatively cool). Settlers called the grape “white Hermitage” and planted it in the mid to late 1800s.