Whilst being well known in France in the creation of Hermitage AOC, Marsanne is also grown in Valais, Switzerland, where it is known as Ermitage or Ermitage Blanc. It is also found in Savoie where they call it Grosse Roussette.
It is a versatile grape and is made into steely dry and sweet wines (Ermitage Fletri from Valais) with quite a deep colour. Although often blended due to its low acidity this is a plus for the Swiss who are not too keen on much acidity in their wines and they produce an excellent range of single variety wines from this grape. The wines, whether dry or sweet, can be drunk young, but will benefit greatly from being given time to age and reach their full potential.
Marsanne produces deeply coloured wines that are rich and nutty, with hints of spice and pear, aromas of melon and honeysuckle. As Marsanne ages the wine takes on a darker colour and the flavours can become more complex and concentrated with a waxy, honeyed texture. Aromas of nuts and quince can also develop.
DNA analysis shows a parent-offspring relationship between Marsanne and Roussanne. Marsanne is one of the eight grape varieties allowed in Côtes du Rhône.
It seems likely that Marsanne is named after the village near Montélimar where it is likely to have originated.