Tahbilk Marsanne is a wine with a history - not so much because I first bought and enjoyed an earlier vintage more than 10 years ago but because Marsanne has been grown on the Tahbilk estate since the 1860s. Although none of these early vines survives, some of the estate’s Marsanne vines date back to the late 1920s. (The estate’s long and fascinating history can be followed on their wesbsite.)
Astonishingly, Tahbilk has the largest single holding of Marsanne vines in the world. It’s quite a rare variety, with its origins in the northern Rhône, and currently planted in only four countries: France, Australia, the United States and Switzerland. In the Rhône it's generally blended with Roussanne and/or Viognier, whereas this wine is pure Marsanne.
The 2005 vintage has now benefited from a couple of years in bottle and the wine is pale gold and has an attractively wide range of aromas and flavours - ripe apricots and peaches, ripe apples, something slightly floral, maybe honeysuckle, and just a little bit of honey. The honey tends to get more pronounced as the wine ages, and this Marsanne does age particularly well. All this before you even taste the wine! The flavours in the mouth are equally attractive but there’s more citrus and quite noticeable acidity, giving refreshment despite the full body and 13.5% alcohol. It’s particularly tangy at the end, with a hint of clementine as well as lemon on the finish.
Like last week’s wine of the week, you get a lot of flavour for a very reasonable price. In the UK, the Threshers single bottle price is rather high at £9.99 but if you buy three bottles, this comes down to a much more reasonable and appropriate £6.66 a bottle (it's in Wine Rack and selected Threshers). It is quite widely available in the UK and although it does of course vary from vintage to vintage, it is consistently good. The Wine Society are offering the 2004 at £7.75 and everywine.co.uk have the 2001 at just over £100 a case. Alas winesearcher.com is unable to find a US stockist at the time of writing although of course it is widely distributed in Australia and is also available in Canada. Tahbilk themselves cite distributors in more than 20 countries in Europe, North America and Asia. You can get more specific information via this page of their website.
In case you have never come across the Nagambie Lakes on a wine label, or anywhere else, it has been officially recognised as a ‘Geographical Indication’ (or GI) since 2001 and is a subregion of the Goulburn Valley in Central Victoria. (GIs are the Australian equivalent of French ACs or Spanish DOs; you can find a complete list of them here.) The region is particularly influenced by the proximity of many local lakes and lagoons, strung along the Goulburn River, and this has a cooling effect on the climate, helping to retain freshness in this wine. This contributes to the ageing potential of the wine and, combined with its full-bodied style, makes it an excellent food wine.
A very good example of a variety far from its roots but truly at home.