Maybe it’s because 'viognier’ is harder to pronounce than ‘chardonnay’, but nevertheless there’s a handful of dedicated Aussie producers giving Rhône-inspired white blends a firm nudge. We blind-tasted 19 stellar examples that, as a whole, showcased texture, finesse and interest – not to mention sheer drinkability. Here are our top 12.
2017 Yeringberg Marsanne Roussanne, Yarra Valley, A$65
Could this be the Australian benchmark for the marsanne-roussanne blend? From the deft hands of Sandra de Pury, it’s vinous and savoury; cool, even and fine, with notes of orange blossom and apricot, lemon rind and bay leaf – and length for days.
2019 Yangarra Estate Blanc, McLaren Vale, A$25
Australia’s first white Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend (grenache blanc, clairette, roussanne, picpoul and bourboulenc) is an early result of a significant vineyard project for Yangarra. It’s restrained at the moment, with notes of white flowers, honey and green apple. Give it time.
2017 Torbreck The Steading Blanc, Barossa Valley, A$40
Such a pretty smelling wine, with apple blossom and jasmine, mandarin and orange peel. But it’s also a wine of texture and finesse, with saline acidity and a subtle, fine sandpaper-like phenolic grip that primes for the next sip.
2017 Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier, Nagambie Lakes, A$30
The Purbrick family is arguably our greatest advocate for the white Rhône varieties. There’s a definite sense of minerality here, with sweet stone fruit notes offset by oyster shell, ocean spray and almond characters.
2018 Ravensworth The Grainery, Canberra District, A$42
This release of Bryan Martin’s cult blend is viognier dominant, with marsanne, roussanne and a small amount of chardonnay. A combination of techniques, including skin contact and fermentation in ceramic eggs, have resulted in a wild yet totally classy wine.
2018 Langmeil Three Gardens Viognier Marsanne Roussanne, Barossa Valley, A$20
The value here is more than evident. Estery banana-like aromas with tropical fruits and cashew nut. The palate glides with precision, with stone fruit characters and a faint tug of Fruit Cup-flavoured phenolics. Lots to like.
2018 John Duval Plexus White, Barossa Valley, A$30
John and Tim Duval may be best known for their stunning reds but here’s a reason to diversify. Led by fairly even amounts of marsanne and roussanne, with 9% viognier, the stone fruit, citrus, beeswax and honeycomb aromas lead to a tight, crunchy palate with lees-induced complexity and fine, chalky acid.
2018 Mount Mary Marli Russell RP1, Yarra Valley, A$55
Mount Mary’s 2007-planted ‘Rhône Project’ site is going great guns if this blend of marsanne, roussanne and clairette is anything to go by. Its vibrant, glossy texture is eased into focus by a slow-building line of acid and a long, tonic-laden finish.
2016 Warner Vineyard Roussanne Marsanne, Beechworth, A$30
Aromas of orange and apricot are tempered here by some nutty, oxidative notes of almond and walnut. The palate is brimming with apple skin, orange and brisk, slaty acidity. An incredibly moreish wine with loads of interest.
2016 The Story Wines Marsanne Roussanne Viognier, Grampians, A$29
Rory Lane has been producing this blend with fruit from the Grampians’ famed Westgate vineyard for years. The style may have evolved but the varietal components are clear, with white flowers and crushed nectarine, a briney, saline drive and a slightly bitter tonic finish.
2016 Lome Vineyard Viognier Marsanne Roussanne, Bendigo, A$28
A new wine for us at GTWINE HQ, from the ancient soils of Victoria’s Harcourt Valley. A superfine, savoury blend with a gliding undertow of mandarin fruit kept in shape by taut, chalky acidity. Prime for barbecued seafood.
2019 Frederick Stevenson Marsanne Roussanne, Barossa Valley, A$38
A fine example of how well these varieties lend themselves to skin contact, especially in the hands of Steve Crawford. It’s an orange/amber wine with juiciness, and energy, structure and grip. Flavours of dried orange and apricot, white pepper, cloves and anise. Wow.