A Wine Lover's Guide To The White Marsanne And Roussanne Grapes

     The white Marsanne grape variety was first noted in southeastern France. This grape can be found in the northern Rhone Valley of southeastern France, in the Valais region of Switzerland, and in California, where it is a minor grape. It may be hard to believe, but half of the world's Marsanne grapes are planted in the Golburn Valley of southeastern Australia. Marsanne's deep colored juice has low acidity, a high level of alcohol, and ages well in oak. In the Rhone Valley Marsanne is often added to Syrah. It is the major variety used in the production of the famous white Crozes-Hermitage and the sparkling and still St. Peray white wines. Marsanne is often blended with Roussane grapes to add aroma and delicacy, producing interesting Rhone Valley white wines. Marsanne often accompanies Crab, Lobster, Chicken, and Veal.

Marsanne wines usually start at about $10. The French Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage is quite good for the $15 range. This wine is mostly Syrah with some Marsanne. It is peppery with a lot of black currant. If you want unblended Marsanne go for one from The Australian (Goulburn Valley) winery Tahbilk produces a fine Marsanne starting at about $15. The flavors include lemon, honey, and peach, and as the wine ages honeysuckle aroma and flavor develop. If you can find bottles labeled 1927 Vines don't pass them up, even if you have to pay more than twice the price. These are said to be the oldest Marsanne vines in the world. You are taking a chance on the still St. Peray and we do not recommend the sparkling St. Peray, but some people like it.

Roussanne probably originated in the Cotes du Rhone and Isere Valley region of eastern France. Roussanne is usually found in regions with a Mediterranean climate such as the Upper Rhone Valley of eastern France, and in the Tuscany region of northern Italy.

Roussanne grapes are considered quite difficult to raise. Roussanne seldom produces a varietal wine but is blended with Marsanne to produce the famous Rhone Valley Hermitage wines. Roussanne adds acidity, elegance, delicacy and aroma to the Marsanne. Roussanne improves with age. It also produces the thick and viscous vin de paille (straw wine) of the same region and the sparkling wines of Saint Peray. It is a common component in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It is also a component of the Montecarlo Bianco from Tuscany, Italy.

Try Roussanne-based wines with Crab, Lobster, Turkey, Duck, and Ham. Roussanne wine usually starts at about $10. In this price range try the Chateau Lamargue Costieres de Nimes White which is actually a blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc (50-50). This round wine has peach and melon flavors. From the Central Coast of California you can get a Jaffurs Wine Cellars Roussanne Santa Barbara County that costs in the low twenties. This wine tastes of honeydew and poached pears. Stay in the same region and pay about $30 for a Tablas Creek Vineyard Roussanne with honey, pear and lemon zest flavors, and moderate acidity.

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Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, and likes drinking fine wine with friends. He teaches computers  at an Ontario French-language community college. His global wine website  www.theworldwidewine.com  features a weekly review of $10 wines. Visit his wine, nutrition, and health website www.wineinyourdiet.com .

Posted on 2013-12-02, By: *

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