Diagonal Debate #2 – Marsanne

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Marsanne is a group favourite for the walkabout crew – we have a lot of it in our cellars (it is our dominant white variety) since it is excellent value for money and cellars very well, changing in profile over time, being lovely and fresh when young and brilliantly complex when aged for 15+ years. In many French styles, Marsanne is blended with Roussanne and Viognier, so hunting out the single varietals (like we did for the Roussanne debate) took a few day trips.

Each wine was tasted multiple times and then a score out of 100 points was awarded. After all wines were tasted, the scores for each wine were averaged to determine the group ranking which will be given at the end. Firstly, our individual critiques:

Tahbilk 2018 Marsanne: The colour in the glass is similar to Pinot Gris, but the bouquet is dominated by nectarine with hints of lemongrass. A very crisp flavour, with plenty of acidity but still very fresh. A really lovely, clean flavour. $12 per bottle.

Warrabilla 2014 Reserve Marsanne: This wine had a really beautiful gold colour. The wine itself was matured in 100% new French oak which, given the price of $19 per bottle makes it quite a bargain from just a production perspective… The nose was typical Marsanne (aged) with some sweet hints coming through but overall quite a soft bouquet. In the plus column we had comments from tasters that the length was good and the palate was complex and well oaked. Some of the negative commentary suggested some souring in the palate. This may mean the wine still needs time to evolve. $19 per bottle.

Tahbilk 2010 “1927 Vines” Marsanne: This was the equal-most expensive of the wines tasted and the equal oldest. The aroma is typical of aged Marsanne but there were some hints of minerality reported from the group. The wine was not as dark golden in colour as the other 2010 Marsanne either which was interesting. Toasty flavours were present in abundance and the finish on this wine seemed endless. Yet still, some acidity and freshness lingered on the palate, suggesting this wine may well improve further with age. $40 per bottle.

Mitchelton 2017 Marsanne: Unlike Tahbilk Marsanne, this has been matured in oak which means it is a bit more expensive (~$20 per bottle). The colour, as expected from oak, is beautifully golden and the nose shows a lot of complex notes. The palate is long, but has some sourness which dampens the experience. A nice wine with lots of promise.

Warramunda 2017 Marsanne: This was an interesting wine in many ways before the glass was even poured. The closure is Diam Cork and then sealed in yellow/gold wax, quite thickly – it requires good knife/corkscrew skills to remove the wax and cork although being a Diam it stays together pretty well during the uncorking. These grapes have a very similar DNA to those used by Tahbilk, so we were very curious to see what effect the Terroir and climate had on the finished product.

In short, this wine is LOVELY. It tastes more aged than its vintage suggests but also has a sweeter front palate than the Warrabilla Marsanne. At $40 per bottle it ranks with the most expensive wines in this tasting.

Alkimi “good earth” 2017 Marsanne (pictured above): This was a very interesting wine (as are all Alkimi wines – the winemaker Stuart shows his influence a lot and it is mostly positive). There is a flint-like taste in the palate of this Marsanne not present in the others (maybe in the Warabilla to a small extent) which adds an unusual extra level of complexity. This was not everyone’s idea of a good Marsanne but those who liked it in our tasting group were very positive.

Our Verdict: The Paul Mas, French Marsanne scored the lowest by a significant margin. After this, opinions were really divided. The top three on aggregate were the two Tahbilk wines and the Waramunda.

If price is a factor, the Tahbilk 2018 Marsanne which can be purchased retail for $11.50 per bottle is a real bargain. If price is not an issue, you really can’t go wrong with either the Tahbilk “1927 Vines” Marsanne at around $40 per bottle in selected retailers or the Warramunda which is $40 per bottle at the cellar door. The Tahbilk wines are more consistently available (Warrmunda sometimes sells out of certain vintages – a wonderful problem to have for sure) which perhaps makes the Warramunda wine worth seeking out…

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