The Marsanne grape is pretty unique. When turned to wine it has a natural maturation similar to a Hunter Semillon turning from light and crisp into rich and creamy; maintaining a delightful acid balance.
You might be wondering if the aging qualities of a Marsanne wine have much to do with the year it was grown – a good question to ask yourself.
To answer it, we would say stylistically Marsanne doesn’t change much from year to year. Consistently the vintage will turn from crisp to a creamier drop over time. But what has changed is the application of screwcaps, instead of cork. Screwcaps will ensure that Marsanne from a good year will be drinking very nicely when 10 years old, and will still be an interesting drink at 20 years of age.
It is a bit of a different proposition for our ‘1927 Vines’ Marsanne which is a completely different proposition of course as it is made to age 20 plus years. A lot longer than the Estate wine you find in most households.
With the recent run of warm and dry vintages (from 1998 to 2017, excepting 2011) our Marsanne style has been very consistent for well over a decade. It’s hard to split some of the years, especially after a few years of bottle development.
Our winemaker Neil Larson reflected on the changes made to our Marsanne winemaking since his beginnings in 1991. He notes three changes which might have influenced how the wine ages in the bottle:
Firstly, the introduction of membrane presses in the mid ’90s. These presses have a higher capacity and fill faster than the old air-bag press we were using, reducing oxidation and improving the quality of the free-run and pressings juice.
Secondly, the change to screw-caps from the 2002 vintage. This improved freshness (without diminishing ageing), and much improved reliability. In the old days of cork, when we labelled cleanskin five-year-old museum stock Marsanne, our diligent bottling line staff routinely rejected 30% of the bottles on their colour alone.
Thirdly, in the late ’90s we started to hold back and then blend 5 – 10 % of the previous vintage into the current vintage wine. In the early ’90s our Marsanne often seemed to develop a flat spot at around one to two years of age. Careful blending of the previous vintage has avoided this flat spot, and added complexity without sacrificing freshness.
So while our Marsanne is pretty consistent you will notice some bottle variation as it ages depending on the year. Overall however over a 10 year period you can expect your Marsanne to move from light and crisp to the aged Marsanne we all know and love – creamy and delicious (maintaining its acid balance).