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Hailing from the Northern Rhone region of France, Marsanne is a grape that produces both sweet white wines and dry white wines. Often, its contribution gets lost in production, often mixing Clairette and Roussanne grapes to produce a wine that's more complex than when Marsanne is used by its lonesome. Marsanne is grown mostly in France but also has a presence in Switzerland, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
Growing Marsanne is a sophisticated process, but managing the soil acidity and planting location can result in vines that last over 100 years. Even with its longevity, Marsanne acts as a grumpy old man, seeming to never be perfectly ripe and challenging winemakers to choose the proper harvesting time. Grapes picked too late create flabby wines, while those chosen too early can result in flavorless wines.
With both sweet white and dry white varieties, Marsanne hangs its hat on versatility, but sweet wine drinkers beware: sweet Marsanne can hop up in price quickly. The sweet wine version is strikingly labor intensive, made through a process known as Vin de Paille. During this process, the grapes are put on straw mats to dry and ferment under the sun, becoming concentrated and sweeter as a result. Some of these wines lend themselves to an exclusive batch that becomes a variety of sparkling wines.
Both sides of Marsanne have a diverse flavor profile with a mineral quality to boot. The longer the wine ages, the more flavors come out, but typically, Marsanne will boast notes of peach, pear, nut and spice. Aged and more mature wines also get a silky, exotic mouthfeel that adds to the tasting experience.
Because of its rich flavors, Marsanne is a food-friendly wine, working beautifully with cheeses and cream sauces. For a traditional pairing, opt for a seafood pasta or a lightly spiced chicken or pork dish. If you aren't hungry, Marsanne is best-served in your favorite hangout at a temperature of your choice.