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NorCal Wine Blog

I Want Mour(vedre)

Mourvèdre is like a middle brother. It’s not big and strong like Syrah. Syrah exudes power, even when Auntie Viognier pins a little white flower to the lapel of it’s black jacket. It can carry a barrel of wine all by itself.

Nor is Mourvèdre fresh and rosy-cheeked, like that cute little Grenache everyone fawns over these days. Grenache is thin-skinned and can be high-spirited, but people always focus on its cheerful and light-hearted nature, it’s potential.

MourvedreMourvedre just hangs around quietly, doing what it’s told. “Mourvèdre, give some of your grilled meat to Syrah. He does all that heavy lifting.” "Mourvèdre, give your thick leather gloves to Grenache. He's got thin blood.” Or, even worse, ”What’s that smell? Mourvèdre Monastrell Mataro, is that you? Take a shower, boy!” And in group photos, Mourvèdre gets shuffled around to fill in a gap or hide something distracting in the background.

Then there are the rumors. “Something about that Mourvèdre boy isn’t right, Mildred. He’s so rough! They say in France people called him Estrangle-Chien. Dog strangler! Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, I say.” Personally, I think Mourvèdre is just misunderstood.

Facts About Mourvèdre

For one, Mourvèdre isn’t French but Spanish in origin. The Spanish can’t decide whether it’s from Catalonia or Valencia, but they do agree it’s name is Monastrell. Don’t ask...

It is true, however, that Mourvèdre is best-known for its use in wines from southern France. It usually takes a supporting role in the blends of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Bandol. On rare occasions, it gets center stage.

Mourvedre is late-ripening. And it is prone to excessive vigor. That makes proper ripening even more difficult. You don’t want to drink wines made from under-ripe Mourvèdre lest you experience those dog-strangling tannins. Nor do you want it under-age. Mourvèdre is at its best when fully ripe and given time to soften and develop in barrel and/or bottle.

What is Mourvèdre like, at it’s best then? It is dark red and structured, with moderate to high alcohol. It’s fruit is often reminiscent of briary blackberry, sometimes plum. Its most distinct aromas and flavors are earthy though: leather, wild game, garrigue, clove. The wine can be truly delicious, exotic and a perfect match for foods that echo its flavors such as Mongolian lamb, game meat pie, sausage of wild boar and dried herb.

Despite it's delectable potential, Mourvedre isn’t among the top three red Rhone varieties in California by acreage. Or the top four. Carignane places fourth. Carignane?

Top 5 Red Rhone Varietals in CA
Variety 2010 CA Acres Under Vine
Syrah 19084
Petite Sirah 7544
Grenache 6011
Carignane 3342
Mourvèdre 847

Data from http://www.nass.usda.gov

Mourvèdre is a distant fifth. While Syrah, Grenache and Petite Sirah stand on the podium after the race, and Carignane is getting kudos for over-achieving, Mourvedre shuffles back to the locker room unnoticed. But I like it and seek out Mourvedre varietal wines.

Four Mourvèdre Varietal Wines from California

Despite Mourvèdre’s under-the-radar status, I’m pleased to say it does get full varietal focus from a number of California wineries. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed:

Anglim Mourvèdre Hastings Ranch: The first, and current, vintage of Mourvèdre from Anglim is 2007. Leather and white pepper aromas are followed by black and red fruit and spice. The tannins are satisfyingly mouth-coating, smooth enough to allow immediate drinking but sufficiently robust for aging.

Cline Small Berry Mourvèdre: Flavors of bold dark fruit, tobacco leaf (common in Mourvèdre) and eucalyptus characteristic of the small, low-yield vineyard are framed by tannins kept friendly by a gentle crush and 14 months in French oak.

Quivira Mourvèdre Wine Creek Ranch Estate: Quivira tends the Mourvedre very carefully in their biodynamic estate vineyard, adds a healthy splash of Grenache and then lets it soften in huge French oak foudres and puncheons. The wine is full of blackberry and plum complemented by the grape’s natural aspects of spice and earthiness.

Tablas Creek Mourvèdre: I often find this wine to have more red fruit than in most Mourvèdre I've tried. There is also dark plum and the essential meat and black spice notes.

A Mourvèdre Tasting Opportunity

At the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting this coming Sunday, March 25, be sure to taste Syrah, Grenache, Rhone whites and even Carignane. But don’t overlook Mourvedre. It’s definitely worth a try.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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