It’s Never Too Late to Celebrate Marselan

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I missed World Marselan Day. It was two days ago, on April 27. (Unfortunately, I was laid out with the flu, even though it’s late April and no one should be getting the flu at this time of year!) But perhaps you missed it too? It would be easy to see how it could happen. This might be one of the more obscure wine days on the calendar. But don’t fret– although wine days give us an excuse to drink a glass on that particular day (and maybe post a hashtag on social), it really is about raising awareness of a varietal, and in this case, trying something new. And really you can do that any day of the year!

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of Marselan before, it is probably because it is relatively new, and it has only been on shelves in the U.S. since 2007. The grape, which is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, was invented in 1961 by French Ampelographer Paul Truel. It was designed to have the alluring character of Cabernet Sauvignon with the productivity of Grenache. Unfortunately, its small berries produced lower yields than desired and it was shelved before it could ever take off. 

However, in the late 80s, as the focus shifted from quantity to quality, and the need for disease and mold-resistant varieties became important, Marselan was dusted off and tested out. The results were stunning. Deeply colored and highly aromatic, the wines flaunted ample dark fruits, with an intriguing earthiness and spice. The supple tannins and medium body proved to be perfect for drinking young, while also showing the potential to age. By 1990, the French had approved it as a commercial variety and soon countries all over the world were making their version of Marselan. Today, over 20 nations make wines starring this varietal, with Languedoc, California, Argentina, Spain, Uruguay and Brazil as some of the most prominent. 

Evan Goldstein, in his book Wines of South America, writes, “I fell in love with Marselan, one of my favorite grapes, in Brazil…. Marselan has the creamy, fleshy texture of Grenache along with the peacock’s-tail complexity of Cabernet Sauvignon, which also imparts a trace of tannin to the mix. It has a little of everything: tasty red-cherry fruit, a somewhat flashy mouthfeel, and soft but discernible tannins.”

At K&L, we carry a wonderful Marselan from Bodega Garzón in Uruguay. With powerful aromas of red fruit, mineral and eucalyptus, it is a wine with a big, inviting personality. Pair it with rich, spicy foods like barbecued meats, sausages and potatoes, and you have a reason to celebrate. 

-Megan Greene

Megan Greene