What’s in a Name?
The French know it as Mourvedre, the Spanish as Monastrell, and in Portugal and parts of the New World, it’s Mataro. It’s a great grape full of tannin and alcohol, spicy savoury flavours and a wild earthy edge.
Grape of Wrath
Mourvedre is a grape full of contradictions. It loves heat but hates drought. It grows slowly and ripens late and thrives in windy climates, because the tightly packed little grapes need good ventilation to avoid rot. It is particularly suited to Spain and parts of Southern France. Makers need to be patient with Mourvedre, as it can be temperamental, taking up to ten years to mature, and producing yields that vary in quality from year to year.
Mixing it Up
Mourvedre enjoys being blended, and goes great with Grenache and Syrah, providing backbone and structure to the soft fruits of these varieties. It’s used widely in Rhône style blends, and is a principle ingredient in Châteauneuf du Pape.
In Australia, where it is known as Mataro, its common to find it paired with Grenache and Shiraz to make high alcohol, intense wines called GSMs (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre).
Mourvedre is the second most widely planted grape in Spain, after Garnacha (Grenache), and the potential to make excellent wine on its own rather than as a blending ingredient is beginning to be recognised here. Look out for some great Monastrell wines from Jumilla and Yecla in South Eastern Spain. These are reasonably priced, rich inky dark wines, capable of staining the whitest teeth!
Fine Wine in France
Mourvedre used to be planted throughout France, but Phylloxera, a pest that, devastated vines during the 19th century. Now it’s found throughout Southern France and is mostly used in blends. In one area, Bandol, however, Mourvedre is used to make exceptionally good, premium reds. These are dark, full-bodied wines with powerful tannins and are aged in the bottle to allow the spicy liquorice flavours to develop. Production is small and if you are lucky enough to try a Bandol Mourvedre, hopefully you’re being a guest somewhere because these wines can set you back a pretty penny.
So now you have read all about it, why not treat yourself to a bottle of Mourvedre?
- As well as all its other names, the local name for Mourvedre in parts of France is Estrangle-Chien, or Dog Strangler.
- There is some great Monastrell, blended and unblended coming from the USA – mostly from around Washington state.