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Marselan from the Med reaches our shores at last!

Wines made with Marselan, the red grape born on the Mediterranean coast, are making waves as far afield as China. Marselan is a newcomer and it’s well worth keeping an eye out for. It produces deeply coloured, very fragrant wines with rich ripe fruit flavours and soft, supple tannins – you can almost taste the sun kissed grapes in the glass . . .


Marselan is a fairly new discovery for French wine makers. It was first grown in 1961 at the Domaine de Vassal near the town of Marseillan on the Mediterranean coast of France. The Domaine is a research centre and is home to a collection of pre-phylloxera grapes that was created in 1876. The collection is a huge data bank that is used to identify long lost grapes and to create new varieties. Marseillan itself is one of the oldest villages in France, having been founded by the Greco/Phoenicians.and the port is a heritage site. Marselan was bred by the famous ampelographer Paul Truel. It’s a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache and exhibits the virtues of both.

The aim of crossing these two well known grapes was to get a grape variety with the structure and elegance of Cabernet Sauvignon and the colour, robust depth and heat tolerance of Grenache. Marselan’s stand out characteristics in wines are fine, supple tannins and soft mouthfeel; deep colour and medium body. Marselan wines have the potential to age beautifully too.

Marselan grapes
Marselan grapes

Marselan profile:

  • Flavours & aromas – Marselan wines are packed with warm, juicy flavours of black cherry, cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), raspberry jam, dried fruits (fig, prune – and sometimes sultana) with aromatic notes of dark chocolate, black pepper, liquorice and black olive.

  • Style – Typically smooth and well balanced, Marselan wines are wonderfully expressive. Fresh and fragrant with good structure; they can also be quite complex with a multi layered dimension.

Marselan finds fame in First Growth Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s new venture in China

Being a southern grape variety suited to hot, sunny terroirs Marselan tends to be grown in the Languedoc along the Mediterranean coast and the southern Rhone Valley. However this is a grape that has caught the eye of some seriously heavyweight wine makers who are responsible for top flight wines – Marselan is one of the grape varieties being trialled in Bordeaux for future use. What’s more it has recently found fame as one of the grapes planted in First Growth Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s vineyard in China.

The quay at Marseillan
The quay at Marseillan

In 2009 Lafite partnered with Chinese investment group Citic and invested around 12.5 million euros in a new vineyard situated on the easternmost tip of Shandong Province. The Penglai estate stretches over 25 – 30 hectares and the vineyard is surrounded by 9 km of dry stone walls. The grapes planted were the usual Bordeaux varieties as you would expect but the surprise element was the inclusion of both Syrah and Marselan. An interesting development and one that showed good foresight.

Lafite’s new wine is still in the experimental stages; vintages produced so far are not available to the public. Doubtless, Lafite’s new wine is making waves within the industry and once it hits the market interest in Marselan will take another boost. However if you want to try a taste for yourself you don’t have to wait (or pay the high price) for a First Growth Marselan made wine. Although Marselan is a newcomer it has already gained a following in France and this is on the rise. It has found an anchor here in the UK and we introduced our first Marselan blend last month: Les P’tits Galets 2015, Gold Medal £6.79. It’s the perfect summer red.

Les P’tits Galets 2015, Shiraz, Marselan & Merlot – Gold Medal £6.79pgm

Tasting notes:

A voluptuous blend of Shiraz (Syrah), Marselan and Merlot from the vignerons of Roquemaure in the Gard. Perfectly balanced with silky tannins. Sumptuous and juicy, oozing with flavours of rich, ripe blackberry, liquorice and black cherry with notes of the garrigue (thyme, rosemary and juniper), spice and mocha. Medium bodied, vibrant and bright with a good finish.

Les P'tits Galets 2015 - Gold Medal £6.79
Les P’tits Galets 2015 – Gold Medal £6.79

Food and wine matching:

Blended with Shiraz (Syrah), the classic red Rhone grape, and Bordeaux’s Merlot; Marselan adds a new dimension, bringing beautifully integrated tannins and flavours. Les P’tits Galets is deliciously moreish and the perfect Summer red wine. It’s good with roast lamb, BBQ spare ribs, chorizo, pork, lentil based dishes, porcini mushrooms and chicken.


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