Qupé Marsanne 2007

It looks like I have Jancis Robinson to thank for one more thing: the third edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine has turned out to be not only an invaluable reference but also heavy enough to serve as a flat surface to park my wine while lounging on the sofa, MacBook at hand, to blog.My first, fleeting impression was of dried sugared pineapple, but that quickly dissipated in favor of something not unlike popcorn flavored jellybeans. In short, it smells strangely buttery, salty, mineral, sweet, tropical, nutty, and flowery all at the same time – overwhelming, almost, but of course charming as well.The palate is much more restrained than the aromatics; it tastes much more French than Californian, with firm structure and a mouthfeel reminiscent of beeswax. The finish is lovely, with hints of wildflower and length to spare; acidity is present, not unsettling; color is elegantly pale (think Tilda Swinton, perhaps).If this wine were French, it’d cost a hundred bucks; this wine isn’t, and I’m thinking I should lay some down for a good, long time. Just as Tahbilk marsanne lasts decades, I suspect this one would as well.Qupé
Price: $14
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Gilligan Marsanne Roussanne 2009

Why is Coke so popular? Why isn’t Passiona taking the world by storm? Personally, I adore Passiona and think it has a lot to offer the soft-drinking community. Yet Coke flies off the shelves. It all begs the question: are some soft drinks inherently better than others? Ditto grapes; do some varieties, barring easy targets like Trebbiano, simply make better wines than others? 

I don’t care to attempt an answer but, given the role fashion plays in wine appreciation and commerce, it seems dangerous to use market acceptance as an indicator of a variety’s potential. (Hunter) Semillon is a great example, and I wonder about the white Rhône varieties too. Viognier is, of course, enjoying an odd sort of resurgence, though I’m buggered if I can figure out what to eat with it. Marsanne and Roussanne are even more interesting. Tahbilk continues to make its iconic Marsanne at Nagambie Lakes, and a street price of about $A10 should tell you how scandalously little it is valued by the market (not that my wallet is complaining). Australian Roussanne is even thinner on the ground, yet my infallible fashion radar indicates a growing interest in these two varieties, even if the local industry’s collective expression suggests a degree of puzzlement rather than confidence. 
Enter McLaren Vale producer Gilligan with the first vintage of its Marsanne Rousanne blend (about half each). It’s a striking label, and I mean that literally; its bold typographic treatment on reflective silver should stand out on a shelf. It should also stand out when smelled, because it delivers a big hit of honeysuckle and bubblegum with the eagerness of an overweight teenager deciding what to order at McDonald’s (I speak from personal experience). If it had lingered too long on this note, it would have quickly become cloying, but the nice thing about this wine is that it keeps defying my expectations. From its Britney Spears start, it evolves to show subtle yet lively fruit flavours (in a sort of pineapple and orange spectrum) and, a little unexpectedly, savoury minerality too. The aroma profile never lives up to the impact of its first impression; whether this is good or bad is probably a matter of taste. 
The palate starts full and generous, as one might expect from these varieties, with a shapely flow into the mouth herded by fine, fresh acid. Again, intensity of fruit wanes a little towards the mid-palate, and it’s here more than on the nose that I was left wishing for just a bit extra. Compensation comes in the form of decent complexity and a pleasingly nuanced structure. That same savouriness as on the nose (is it sulphur-derived?) presents through the after palate and tastes very grown up. A fresh finish of unremarkable length.
You could throw this back as a simple quaffer if you chose but, like an unexpectedly smart movie, it prods and provokes more complex responses. This intelligence, combined with a still-unusual mix of grape varieties, is a lot of wine for $A21. Nice.

Price: $A21
Closure: Stelvin