With the global vineyard area planted to Marsanne currently as marginal as its northern Rhone cousin Viognier’s was twenty years ago, Tahbilk is unique in having both the largest single holding of this variety as well as being the guardian of some of its oldest vines. Hence the “1927 Vines” epithet. Contrary to the views of many winemakers whose prestige cuvées are produced from super ripe grapes and are lavished with every luxury at their disposal, the approach at Tahbilk is positively ascetic in comparison.
Made in only the best vintages, the grapes are actually picked early and the wines deliberately have higher acidity levels to provide the necessary structure to support long-term ageing. Raised entirely in stainless steel, the full potential of Marsanne’s complexity and clarity of flavour is realised and is allowed to shine. The result is challenging and thought provoking; it demands time and patience to allow it to evolve and it should be paired with food to show at its best. As you might have gathered, it is a style of wine that really excites me.
Disarmingly pale green with the lightest of gold highlights; from its appearance this could easily have been produced in 2013 rather than being thirteen years old. Even at this age I’d recommend decanting, as after 40 minutes in the glass the nose effloresced into riotous complexity. More savoury than fruity, packed with honeysuckle and acacia blossom, a whiff of green apple skin, lightly browned toast and stoney minerality.
Deceptively light in body (11% ABV) with a firm, upright spine of saline and almost sharp lemon juice fruit, the characters of the nose also pervaded the palate. Initially salty and lemony, honeysuckle, pear and toast flavours revealed themselves in the mid palate. Everything mingled over the course of the splendidly long finish; a squeeze of salty citrus reappeared at the end. What seemed to be a hint of drying tannin, but which could have been a chalky minerality, also provided structure and freshness on the finish. Clean and pure yet bursting with character, to me this was a delightfully old fashioned style of Australian wine akin to Tyrell’s Sémillons or some of the Clare Valley’s best Rieslings. Firm and unyielding in their youth, with a decade or more of bottle age they develop an almost inconceivable depth and complexity. So much so that only a “before and after” tasting would convince many people that they were drinking the same wine. This bottle of Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne was not cheap at £27, but it was one of the best value and most majestic wines that I’ve drunk in quite a while. Decant it for 30 minutes and drink it now by all means, but I’m going to buy some more of this to see how it evolves over the next 5 to 8 years.