Mourvedre: the next big red?

A dozen intrepid tasters gathered at the Dr. Vino World Headquarters on Saturday to answer two pressing questions: (1) is mourvedre the next grape “for men” and (2) if we see more of it thanks to global warming, is that a good thing?

The two questions are interrelated. Because mourvedre (minus one for machismo—French name) has a long hang time (plus one!) it can produce powerful red wines (plus two!) that are high in alcohol (plus three!).

Further, the late bud break and late ripening mean that it does well in warmer climates, such as its ancestral homeland, Spain. The grape has grown so well in Provence that the appellation Bandol mandates that all reds must have at least 50 percent mourvedre. As the world heats up, are we going to see more mourvedre?

Mourvedre is popping up around the world. Originally named after the Spanish town of Murviedro, it came to cover much of southern France. In the late 19th century when phylloxera devasted vineyards, mourvedre lost out since it was difficult to graft, the successful remedy against the louse. Only in the last 50 years was mourvedre able to be grafted and as a result it has swung back into favor though it still lags the other big reds.

It is often blended with grenache and syrah in the Southern Rhone. Chateau de Beaucastel has had as much as 70 percent mourvedre in the blend. Known for giving brambly, rustic, gamey or animal aromas it can take a wine to the wild side. Australia also makes blends known as “GSM” after the three grape varieties although I found it hard to locate one with a significant amount of M.

The best wines from mourvedre are known to improve mightily with age. So I wanted to be sure to include some with age as well as from various growing areas. And it tends to be good in its inexpensive incarnation from Spain, so I wanted to include a few of those too.

I bought ten wines that were mostly mourvedre—or monastrell as it is known in Spain or mataro as it is known in California. Seven of our wines are currently available on the market. One, the Castano Solanera 2001 had been in my cellar for the past couple of years since I purchased it for about $10. The two others, the Tempier and the Ridge, I purchased from Hart Davis Hart in Chicago.

They came from Spain (5), California (3), Washington State (1), and France (1). I bagged them that morning so the tasting would be free of prejudice.

The tasting (in my order of preference)

Ridge, Mataro, Evangelo Vineyard, ATP, 1993. $25 find this wine
An excellent example of aging gracefully. Soft and delicate tannins, notes of forest floor, brambles, dust, leather and some tart cherry, this bottle was quickly emptied. With only seven barrels made, this was a small production that is now out of production.

esprit03 label Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles, 2003. $38 find this wine
Wonderfully balanced with notes of earthy rusticity. The luscious black fruits, supple tannins, and mouth-filling charm with layers of complexity including faint clove, briars, and sage made this my favorite of the young wines. 50 percent mourvedre.

Rafael Cambra, Valencia, 2003. $30 find this wine
Modern in style, this wine exhibits the intensity of the grape in its youth: a slight minerality and acidity followed by solid but fun tannins from the oak as well as the grape. This one could do with 3-5 years in the cellar.

Castaño Solanera, Yecla, 2001. $10 find this wine
Although this wine had a couple of years of age on it, the tannins were still serious. But they made it seem more grown up. Sadly, a second bottle opened after the tasting was corked.

Juan Gil, Jumilla, 2003. $15 find this wine
This highly praised wine from importer Jorge Ordonez is fun and approachable with big concentration and supple tannins and notes of dark fruit, bacon fat, and vanilla. Many tasters enjoyed it, as did I. But I couldn’t help wondering if, in the future, if it wouldn’t be just a tad dull? Still it was the best performer of the currently available under $15 group.

Domaine Tempier, La Migoua, Bandol, 1998. $35 find this wine
Still very dark in color, this single vineyard Tempier with eight years of age was a disappointment. It exhibited musty, skunky notes with licorice and fatigue. I tried it again after the unveiling. A half a bottle remained at the end of the evening.

McCrea, Mourvedre, Red Mountain, Washington State, 2003. $13/375ml find this wine
Bottled in clear glass, the wine has a bright, Jolly Rancher color. It was a prelude to a taste: odd sweetness permeated the wine. Well made and improved with some of the cheeses, but oddly sweet finish remained.

Casa Castillo, Jumilla, 2004. $11 find this wine
No great complexity, no tannic backbone left me thinking, “eh.”

Luzon, Jumilla, 2005. $7 find this wine
With the previous vintage receiving huge praise (although my experience was one good one bad), I had thought that this would be a ringer. Unfortunately it was not to be. There was an odd mustiness that would not blow off, bright berry up front and oak that was not well integrated.

Garretson, mourvedre, “la graosta,” Paso Robles 2004. $30 find this wine
This 100 percent mourvedre had odd notes of sea salt and sulfur that took a while to blow off. Bright cherry and wet dog notes also present. Perhaps blend in some grenache or syrah? The alcohol too was perceptible with 14.8 percent on the label.

Returning to our two questions, mourvedre may not be too manly since men and women enjoyed the wines equally. And if we do see more of it in an era of global warming, it is able to produce exciting wines, particularly when blended with the fruitiness of grenache and the spiciness of syrah. On its own, a great site and top winemaking skills appear needed to make a good one. If game or fowl is on your plate this fall, try matching it to a mourvedre in the glass.

feedchklt

pixel

38 Responses to “Mourvedre: the next big red?”


  1. If you’re looking for other great US morveds check out Dave Corey at Corewines.com. He makes a number of blends with high percentages of the M grape and a great “Mr. Mourved” bottling.


  2. I have always found that Cali does not get it quite right for my palate. The Aussie’s do a good job in the GSM mix as do the French, but as a stand alone hmmmmm… not sure.

    P.S. Hope you don’t mind but I added your blog to The Wine Blog List

    Cheers,
    winemonkey


  3. People are already figuring it out. We can’t make enough of our Mourvedre based product (a 50% blend with Syrah and Grenache), it sells out very fast. – j


  4. Too bad you didn’t get the chance to include the Hewitson Old Garden Mourvedre. I believe it is form some of the oldest Mourvedre vines in the world. I believe they are over 150 years old. The price point was about $30. I bought a case of the 04 and am waiting a couple more weeks after shipping to try my first bottle. And it comes with a screw cap!


  5. Hey these are great tips. I think a mourvedre reenactment tasting might be in order!


  6. i understand the appeal to men in general for the over ripe high alcohol “big wine”; but two things. First; a gross generalization, and second; what are you trying to propagate? Isn’t Parker doing enough damsge to the delicate, lighter alcohol, old world of wine? While I love a mouvedre/monastrell, I find more pleasure when I find a wine maker that hasn’t gone to an extreme with the grape. (Hard to do.) As it stands, why not open up men to learning about the subtlties of a more delicate flavor that doesn’t burn out a palate after one glass.


  7. Don’t worry, inchicagoforwine, I’ll be holding a wine cooler tasting “for women” soon.

    Just kidding!!

    The framing of the piece is actually a send-up of niche marketing in wine such as Ray’s Station (“for men”) and white lie (“for women”).


  8. How do you pronounce Mourvedre? Moo-vod? I’ve heard many.


  9. Hello Dr. Vino,

    I noticed in your recent article that you weren’t impressed with the 2004 Casa Castillo. I tried the 2003 and liked it – if I’m not mistaken, you recommended it.

    Tom


  10. Hey! Regarding the pronunciation, it is fiercely difficult. Generally, moo-ved would be a good bet. If you want to sound tres francais, you can and one of those great back-of-the-throat Rs at the end of each syllable. Or just go with monastrell. Moan – a – strel

    Cheers,


  11. True on both counts, Tom. I included it in the tasting bc I thought it would be a ringer, a good value. So I was disappointed. I guess there’s vintage variation even in a hot place like Jumilla!

    Thanks for your comment. Cheers,


  12. Nice article on Mourvedre – a wonderful grape that is certainly worthy of more attention! I didn’t see either of the two Cline Mourvedre bottlings on your list, have you tried them? Cline is in Contra Costa County, and I believe they own something like a third of all the Mourvedre acreage that exists in California. They have a regular old vine bottling, but the killer is their “Small Berries” bottling, which is deep, complex, and hedonistic. Don’t know if they carry it out on the east coast but this is worth looking for. I opened it at a party once and a friend of mine came up to me after having a sip and asked, “What is this, heroin?” Great juice, but there is little that is subtle about it, so be prepared for a very New World approach. Love your blog, and would love to get your opinion on my own wine blog, which I just began. You can check it out at: mikethewineguy.blogspot.com


  13. I liked the Cline Small Berry take on Mourvedre, but I will probably wait a few years before I try my other bottles. I have also tried the Terre Rouge Mourvedre as well as a number of Spanish bottlings. Big wines to pair with a wild dish (i.e. Game) after a good decant! I prefer the polish of Mourvedre in a CdeP blend, but they can be very interesting on their own.
    Dr. Vino – don’t know if you have tried the basic Castano Monastrell, but I have had great success with that wine (multiple vintages)


  14. So what is it: Mourvedre, Monastrel, Mataro, Morastel, or maybe even Graciano?? I’ve been doing some research in prep for a panel discussion on Iberian varieties and have come across a fantastic morass of nomenclature.

    There is contradictory evidence that Monastrell is in fact identicle with Mourvedre. FPS now uses Mourvedre as the prefered name for what had been propagated and sold as Mataro. In California and Australia it is largely known as Mataro. Carol Meredith (3/98 UC Davis) is cited as having shown by comparative analysis that UC Davis and Montpelier France examples of “Mourvedre/Mataro” are genetically unrelated to the Spanish Monastrell. It was not clear what was the source of the Spanish test material. Yet it is common in the literature to see Monastrell identified as being synonymous with Mourvedre.

    There is record of Rioja entrepeneurs in the late 1700′s as bringing Bordeaux winemaking techniques to Spain, and roughly contemporaneous with it, what was called monastrell became the most planted grape in Provence. In Northern Africa, it is apparently known as Morastel. In some sources morastel is listed as being related to Monastrell. In various parts of the world it may have been confused with Graciano. What is the current state of understanding? Anybody?


  15. Hey Mike and Joe,

    I will have to try some of the Clines!

    And, Joe, I tried a bottle of the Castano hecula monastrell 2002 a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing, at a perfect point in its evolution. This grape seems to really do a lot better with some age on it! To think that wine was $7 when I bought it a few years ago…ah if only I’d bought a case or more since it was drinking so well now.

    Tedd, sounds like you’re really getting into it. Maybe check the entry in the latest Oxford Companion to Wine?

    Cheers,

    Tyler


  16. Hey Doc – I forgot about the Hecula (great wine – I think I tried the same vintage), but Castano actually has a wine just simply labelled “Monastrell”. Similar price, same grape, equally delicious. Clines are brutes (here’s my note) – give ‘em a bit of time. Cheers!


  17. Tyler:

    Only one of many. I now have the definitive postion from FPS re ‘clarification’ of this issue.

    Tedd


  18. Thanks for the nice notes on the Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel. Mourvedre is a grape that we think will be tremendously well suited to some of the warmer, longer growing season areas in California. We have more of it planted than we do any other single varietal. Most of it goes into our blends, but we do a small amount of a single-varietal Mourvedre as well.

    If anyone is interested, we did a lot of research on Mourvedre and have posted an article about it on our Web site.

    Thanks again,
    -Jason


  19. Mourvedre–French, sort of like moor-vehdr(uh)or Moor VAY Druh, accent the vehd or Vay sound, last syllable pronounce druh (easy on the h) do not say dray. If you want a great example of this wine try the 2003 Mourvedre, Enz Vd., Lime Kiln Valley, San Benito County by Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Santa Maria, CA. Ken Volk was the fomer winemaker and owner of Wildhorse in Paso Robles, CA. Absolutely great. Milrose


  20. [...] aka mourvedre in the south of France. In a tasting last fall of this big red grape, I found that I preferred the wines with some age on them to blow off some of the gamey, animale [...]


  21. I love Altos de Luzon.


  22. You are right with the LUZON 2005 there was something lacking. The 2006 though is a beauty. Luzon does not have anytime in Oak. The Altos de Luzon is magic though.


  23. Check out the Bedford/Thompson 2001 mourvedre. Big and rich with some age under it’s belt, a steal for 20 bucks. Some other Santa Barbara county mourvedre’s of note are Foxen and Beckman.


  24. Highly recommend 2004 Torbreck the Pict (despite the price tag), 2005 Spinifex Indigene Mataro – Shiraz, & 2005 Hewitson Private Cellar Mourvedre – Shiraz if looking for old vine (own rootstock) mouvedre.

    2003 Trapio Monastrell also if looking for a native, ie Spanish, example.


  25. Dear Dr. Vino

    Luzon does not have any barrel aging or any ok at all, the only one that does is the Altos de Luzon. I would recommed tasting again as you have got it horrible wrong. And try some wines from D.O. Yecla & D.O. Bullas.


  26. Edmonds St. John makes a very good Mourvedre. My favorite, styled in much the same way, is Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages Saint Gervais.


  27. If you don’t like the Bandol at 8 years of age, give it three or four more years. A good Mourvedre requires proper age to show its spicy charm.


  28. Terre Rouge, Sierra Foothills, Amador County, California
    , 2001, very nice. Tannins were soft (maybe the age), was like an lite Amarone, not so high in alcohol….so it seemed, label said 14.5%. Very much in Amarone levels.

    Maybe worth keeping but worth drinking now as well

    Soft enough for women.


  29. Mourvèdre is traditional also in Sardinia, where it is known as ‘Bovale Sardo. (Sardinian Bual??). A superb new producer is ‘Melis’ in the southwest of the island, where ex globetrotting French winemaker Lucien Angei (he has also made Bandol…) is making several levels of super modern versions of Bovale Sardo – mostly 100%. Some of these wines use the local Bovale DOC: ‘Terralba’. Available via VINInternational Ltd: vininternational@gmail.com


  30. [...] “Mourvedre: the next big red?“ Permalink | Share This | French wine This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 [...]


  31. In response to one poster’s comment, I disagree that Mourvedre is a grape largely conducive to overripe, high alcohol wine. It doesn’t tend to be a very enthusiastic ripener and, especially in Bandol, can produce some very firm and restrained wine.


  32. You should also check out VIE. They have the old Sine Qua Non block of Mourvedre at the Alta Mesa vineyard (that Dave Corey of CORE Wines farms). It’s killer stuff. I tasted it at the Wine 2.0 event this last Fall and they would only sell me one bottle since it sold out on release. It was a SQN like wine without paying $100+. I only hope I get an allocation next year.


  33. I second the vote on the Terre Rouge Mourvedre, but you simply must try the Holly’s Hill version of the grape. They are an El Dorado County winery and make the kind of restrained, dusty, leathery Mourvedres more like the Juan Gil you liked (I drink that wine a lot). For a brash, New World-style Monastrell, you could do worse than try Twisted Oak’s wines; they are also in the Sierra Foothills.


  34. I only now came across this post, which I enjoyed. I think the variety is largely misunderstood, and under-appreciated vis a vis its finest qualities. It can, in the best appropriate terroirs, make very elegant, haunting and beautiful wines that have nothing at all to do with high alcohol, gamey aromas, or any of the other attributes that are routinely assigned to it. And it makes those wines only in a few places, not unlike the way Nebbiolo consistently under-performs outside of Piemonte.
    It’s definitely worth the search to find those best examples, though. I think Tablas has done a terrific job.


  35. [...] of the grape, as well as dark fruits and smooth sweet tannins. (I’ll have to stick it in a blind tasting of mourvedres if I do one of those [...]


  36. [...] (Monastrell) varietal and was under $9. For some interesting background on Mourvedre, check out Mourvedre: the next big red? by Dr. [...]


  37. Try Kim Teusner’s Mataro

    130 Year Old Vines… 96 Points
    Astral Series Riebke FG Shiraz 2006
    As you are aware, 06 was a cracker vintage and we were lucky enough to have access to some awesome old fruit for the first time. The fruit was from the oldest block that the Riebke bros take care of (around 130 years), and has regularly made Grange and E&E, purchased by Fosters on a per hectare basis. This means that regardless of the yield they get paid the same money from a certain area of land. This system is used regularly in super premium blocks to encourage the growers to limit the yields, as they are guaranteed of stable income. There are limits, however, on maximum yields – and when these are reached fruit gradings often drop like the Aussie dollar, usually regardless of quality.

    And this was certainly the case in 06. It made no sense. The block was about 2 tonnes over weight with awesome fruit, but the boys risked being paid nothing for it by the big machine. Hence it came our way. We figured at worst it would probably make Albert quality so we committed some good prices to it. As we didn’t have a defining name for the block, the barrels were simply tagged with FG shiraz…….you’ll have to use your imagination for that one.

    “Teusner’s Astral series began with a small batch of grenache in 2005 that they just couldn’t bear to blend away, followed by a couple of barrels of mataro and now this, the first shiraz release.

    Sourced from the Riebke vineyard in the Ebenezer district, this stands out firstly for its concentration – inky dark purple in the glass. when a wine carries a lofty price tag like this it needs to impress and this delivers admirably on its promise, getting deep into the heart of the Barossa’s capability for producing ripe, luscious shiraz.

    Super-rich dark blackberry and plum fruits roll through muscular yet supple tannins. For all its size, it balances neatly throughout, finishing with smoky oak char. Best from 2016. 96 Points ” March 2009, The Adelaide Review – Nick Stock

    “I wonder what FG stands for? Anyway, here’s a wine that I admire for its quality. Much like chocolate mud cake, one small slice is often enough..well maybe just a tiny slither more might be nice… “Say, have you finished with that?”

    Surprisingly fresh fruited with a mix of berries, a touch of mint and menthol, chocolate liqueur and coffee cake. It’s ultra smooth and luscious – a real liquid silk wine – but also amazingly fresh and dynamic with no alcohol heat showing. You can drink it now if you’re in the mood for decadance, but the score is for five or six years down the track when it unsweetens a little and savouries up. It’s a wine that won’t die wondering regardless. 95 Points

    January 2009, The Winefront – Gary Walsh


  38. Do try the Vansha (SGMV) 2010 Red Blend from South Africa – Shiraz 80% – Grenache 10% – Mourvedre 8% – Viogneer 2% -


winepoliticsamz

Wine Maps


Classes

My next NYU wine classes: NYU

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

See my op-eds in the NYT
"Drink Outside the Box"
"Red, White, and Green"

Highlights

Monthly Archives

Categories


Blog posts via email


@drvino








Wine industry jobs

quotes

One of the “fresh voices taking wine journalism in new and important directions.” -World of Fine Wine

“His reporting over the past six months has had seismic consequences, which is a hell of an accomplishment for a blog.” -Forbes.com

"News of such activities, reported last month on a wine blog called Dr. Vino, have captivated wine enthusiasts and triggered a fierce online debate…" The Wall Street Journal

"...well-written, well-researched, calm and, dare we use the word, sober." -Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher, WSJ

jbf07James Beard Foundation awards

Saveur, best drinks blog, finalist 2012.

Winner, Best Wine Blog

One of the "seven best wine blogs." Food & Wine,

One of the three best wine blogs, Fast Company

See more media...

ayow150buy

Wine books on Amazon: