In France the rare marsanne grape is grown in the Northern Rhône and Hermitage regions where its is called White Hermitage. One of its most famous expressions is Chapoutier’s De L’Orée, which the Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker describes as the “most concentrated and richest dry white wine in the world,” noting that in some vintage it has the potential to last 40 – 50 years. (Christmas Eve Dinner 2011 by Robert Parker, eRobertParker.com)
Fortunately Australia makes its own world acclaimed marsanne. Selected for one of my favourite wine books, 1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die, the Tahbilk Marsanne is also a wine that develops superb complexity with bottle age. And like the Chapoutier De L’Orée it is made from very old vines. In fact, Tahbilk has the largest single holding of this rare variety in the world and its plantings are also some of the oldest, dating back to 1927.
Tahbilk is located in the Nagambie Lakes region of central Victoria. It is Victoria’s oldest wine-producing estate. The original ‘White Hermitage’ marsanne cuttings were sourced from the St Hubert’s Vineyard in the Yarra Valley in the 1860s. Incidentally 1860 shiraz vines are still used for the winery’s other flaghship offering, the highly regarded ‘1860s Vines’ Shiraz.
Since 1925 the winery has been owned by the Purbrick family. Here’s the Canberra Times Chris Shanahan’s assessment of the multiple award-winning special release 2003 ‘1927 Vines’ Marsanne, a wine that’s designed to age for 30 to 40 years:
Winemaker Alister Purbrick’s late grandfather, Eric, built Tahbilk’s reputation for Marsanne, a Rhone Valley white variety. Alister Purbrick worked alongside his grandfather after graduating as a winemaker, eventually taking the reins. Over time, he finessed the potentially long-lived style, brightening and freshening the fruit in the basic Marsanne … Read the rest