Get To Know A Grape:  Mourvedre

Mourvedre, which is alternately pronounced moo-VED-ruh or moo-VED (depending on how fancy you’re feeling), is originally from Spain where it is known as Monastrell. It is a dark-skinned grape that generally produces red wines that are full-bodied and tannic with a hallmark meatiness and herbal character. It is often blended with Grenache and Syrah, and sometimes with Carignane and Cinsault.

WHERE MOURVEDRE GROWS

There are less than 200,000 acres of Mourvedre planted around the world, a fraction of the acreage taken up by the most widely planted grape, Cabernet Sauvignon. Only four countries, Spain, France, Australia, and the United States, have significant plantings of the variety. 

In Spain, the grape grows in warm and sunny areas close to the Mediterranean such as Jumilla and Alicante. France’s Southern Rhone region produces wines with Mourvedre, most notably Cotes du Rhone and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where it plays a supporting role to Grenache and Syrah. Mourvedre is the signature grape of the French region of Bandol in Provence. Here it is known for age-worthy red wines and powerful roses, which are sometimes blended with smaller amounts of Grenache and Cinsault.  

Australia and the United States have historically referred to the grape as Mataro, which is the name of a town in Spain, but Mourvedre has become the more popular designation in recent years. In Australia, the grape is growing in popularity in Barossa and McLaren Vale. In the United States, California regions in the Central Coast, Paso Robles, and the Sierra Foothills are among the appellations crafting varietal wines and blends from Mourvedre grapes.

WHAT MOURVEDRE TASTES LIKE

Plush with blueberries and blackberries, Mourvedre often has a meatiness and pepperiness accented by herbs such as sage.  Some Mourvedre based wines show more masculine notes such as leather and earth, while others exhibit distinctly feminine characteristics including floral nuances of violet and rose.  The tannins are nearly always prevalent and the grape adds richness and structure to blends.

Hearty foods, such as roasted meats, pair well with Mourvedre and tame the tannins. On the lighter side, lentils, eggplant based dishes, and Portobello mushrooms hold up to the robust personality of Mourvedre.

SOME OF OUR FAVORITE WINES FROM CALIFORNIA INCORPORATING MOURVEDRE

2013 La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Rouge Sierra Foothills ($21.99)

This lively blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Marsanne, and Grenache is from vineyards in the Sierra Foothills.  There is 28% Mourvedre in the blend but you don't get the grippy tannins that the grape usually provides. It does add structure to the fruity, juicy, fresh character of this gulpable wine.

2013 Dirty & Rowdy Familiar Mourvedre California ($34.99)

Although they do make wine from other grapes, the vast majority of wines focus on Mourvedre from such appellations as Mendocino, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Amador County, and El Dorado. This wine is a combo of various vineyards in these regions and is blended with a touch of Petite Sirah. It shows the telltale herbal character but is more fresh, red-fruited, and medium-bodied than some. Give it a good decant and you're on your way to something charmingly unique.

2011 Big Basin Homestead Mourvedre Santa Cruz Mountains ($39.99)

Big Basin's Mourvedre is blended with Carignane, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Grenache from Santa Cruz and the Gabilan Mountains. All the grapes come from old vines with lots of character and all the varieties show their stuff in this silky smooth, aromatic wine from winemaker Bradley Brown.

2012 Edmunds St. John Rocks & Gravel Dry Creek Valley ($32.99)

A benchmark 'GSM' (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend from a classic producer that's been around for nearly 30 years. Although it is a blend, the Mourvedre really comes through in the earthy, floral, tannic character of this wine.

2012 Keplinger Lithic Red Wine Amador County ($74.99)

Married team Helen Keplinger and DJ Warner take their inspiration from their love of Southern France. The Lithic is 47% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, and 25% Syrah. There is power in this wine from the blackberry and anise notes, and grace in the floral notes and citrus nuances. A celebratory bottle.

2012 Saxum Vineyards Red Blend James Berry Vineyard Paso Robles ($199.99)

This is one difficult-to-find wine from Paso Robles! And no wonder, the James Berry Vineyard blend always receives high praise from critics, and the 2012 received a 97+ from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Twenty-nine percent of the wine is Mourvedre, blended with Grenache, Syrah, and Counoise. The dark, meaty, tannic notes from the Mourvedre are prevalent and the wine is one for the cellar.

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