Marselan is a recent crossing between two famous red grape varieties, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. The highly regarded crossing is now found in niche pockets across the globe from China to Uruguay with its roots firmly in the Languedoc and Provence regions of southern France. Wines made from Marselan are medium-bodied with fine tannins, good color, and characteristics of cherry and cassis.
Marselan was bred in 1961 by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) at their Domaine de Vassal station in Marseillan, after which the grape is named. The objective in this breeding program was to create high-yielding varieties with large berries. Despite its natural resistance to mildew and botrytis, Marselan's small berry size meant that it was shelved at this time, and revisited in the 1990s as producers began to look to quality over quantity.
Marselan was added to the French national register of grapes in 1990, mostly for use in IGP wines. It made its first appearance in an AOC in 2011 – it is now permitted as a cepage accessoire in Cotes du Rhone wines. In fact, the variety is often used as a blending component alongside the southern French staples Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan.
As well as in France (where the majority of plantings can be found), Marselan has found a home in a few pockets of the New World. Perhaps most notable is the variety's foothold in China, where it occupies some of the Sino-French Demonstration Vineyard in the province of Hebei, near Beijing. It is also found in parts of northern Spain, namely Penedes and Catalonia.
Food matches for Marselan include:
Roasted shoulder of lamb with garlic and rosemary
Pork and black bean stew (feijoada)
Lightly spiced vegetable and lentil stew