Mourvedre is a grape few wine drinkers had ever heard of but now it is becoming fashionable.
Confusingly the variety has several names. In Australia and historically in California it is Mataro and in its original home, which is Spain, it is Monastrell. Mourvedre (pronounced ‘moor ved with just a hint of ‘r’ at the end’) is its French name.
It’s a black grape used to make red and increasingly, pink wines
In France it had the nick-name of ‘dog-strangler’ which referred to the tough tannic wines that leave a rasping leathery taste in the mouth. But that is changing now as riper grapes are picked and young winemakers use modern techniques to wrestle it into submission in the cellar.
Mourvedre needs heat and sun and it gives high alcohol and develops a meatiness on the palate. Pick the grapes before they’re fully ripe and you get a tannic wine lacking flavour
Although Mourvedre originated in Spain, most wine drinkers first encounter it in French or new world wines. Bandol is the appellation in France most associated with the variety where it forms the majority of a blend and it is a smaller component of southern Rhone blends such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
It is as part of a blend, with Grenache and/or Syrah that I have always thought it excelled. In such blends it adds the tannins and body that would otherwise be lacking, while the other components proved complexity and delicacy.
But I have tasted some 100% varietal examples from Australia that have made me reconsider.
David Powell, owner and winemaker of Torbreck winery in Australia’s Barossa makes ‘Pict’ which is a stunning varietal Mataro from a single vineyard of bush vines planted ninety years ago. Dave poured me current and aged vintages and I was seduced by velvety sweet berry fruit flavours perfumed with Mediterranean herbs.
Leading Australian winery Penfold’s have also released a varietal Mataro. Cellar Reserve ‘Block 25’ is a stunningly attractive wine, rich and lush with a lick of creamy American oak.
The name Mataro is being replaced by Mourvedre in California where Bonny Doon, Cline and a few others produce it as a single varietal, as does Beaumont in South Africa.
Whether it is called Mourvedre, Mataro or Monastrell, keep a look out for this interesting variety and try it with a hearty dish such as Irish stew or wood grilled steak.
Have you tasted Mourvedre wine? Tell us what you thought on our forum.
Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape, also available for the Kindle.