The Tahbilk range of marsanne tells a rich story steeped in the pioneering spirit of Australian winemaking and the Purbrick family. Nowhere else in Australia, to my knowledge, has the breadth of choice of straight marsanne wine on offer.
The first vines
The first marsanne vines were planted in the Tahbilk vineyards in Nagambie Lakes in the 1860’s. According to Tahbilk, it is likely that the marsanne was used for sherry style wine production along with Verdelho and the luscious Pedro Ximenez. At the time, a large portion of wines produced in Australia were fortified and many wizened old vines still in production today, including some of the world’s oldest grenache, are the remnants of this era.
These original marsanne vines planted on Tahbilk were lost to Phylloxera by the turn of the next century. It was during the winery’s resurrection in the late 1920’s after the Purbrick family purchased the property, that marsanne was replanted. These are the source vines for the wines under the iconic ‘1927 Vines Marsanne.’ Wines under this label are made to age with the grapes picked early to retain a higher natural acid.
The Purbrick family have used their vines wisely. By 2014, the had the largest vineyard area dedicated to marsanne in the world and Tahbilk have named it one of the world’s rarest grape varieties. The family have quite an enviable museum release scheme. The oldest marsanne that they have in the museum is 1953.
About that vintage….
This 1953 vintage was poured at the Coronation Luncheon for Queen Elizabeth II at The House of Commons making it very rare indeed. Although, it was a little past its best when it was last tasted during Tahbilk’s 150th Anniversary celebrations in 2010. However, the 1959 has fared better and the reports were that the 1974 marsanne was still drinking very well with another decade left (there is some talk amongst the team that this could have been the result of a very high dose of sulphur. If it is a mistake, it is a happy one).
The current vintage for their fresh young Marsanne is 2020 with a short wait for the 2021. At the moment, you can also select older vintages of Marsanne. These offer excellent value if you want a head start on cellaring, or want to drink it as it is gathering some graceful age. If you are after Marsanne from the older vines, look for the ‘1927 vines’. There is also a white Rhone blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Voignier, a sparkling version ‘Coueslant’ and now a dessert version in the cane cut Marsanne. The cane cut will also age quite well.
This is a remarkably pretty wine with elderflower floral notes to the sun ripened pear and zesty lime held together with some minerality. A dry white that is juicy, medium bodied and has plenty of taut length. The flavour continues to build in the mouth and takes on a savoury smoky edge which adds dimension to the otherwise pure fruit.
A wine that is good on its own although it equally does justice to food too. Tahbilk is one of those family wineries that consistently over deliver on quality at these price points. ($18.95)
Tahbilk Marsanne Museum Release
The honeyed lemon and pear fruit has added detail of mineral savouriness. An elegantly bodied wine with fresh acid and some development shows in the very long finish of honeyed pears and citrus. There is still the potential to cellar this wine in the mid term. Released with at least six years of age on it, there is plenty of life left in the cellar. ($26.95)
Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne
Released with some cellar age already, this white wine that is still looking remarkably fresh for around $45. Remarkable value – but then marsanne in general is undervalued and Tahbilk’s wine club prices are an absolute steal. The 1927 Vines are the original Tahbilk marsanne vines. There is some honeyed age on the palate and nose amongst the fresh pear and lime juice.
The palate is spicy with honeysuckle and has a fresh zing to its step still. The mandarin acid is soft and the length is long, linear and juicy. A seriously delicious wine now or with even more time languishing in your cellar. Tahbilk have done much of the cellaring for you already. ($44.95)
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Note: This article was originally posted March 13, 2014 & updated on 1st May 2021