Wine Profile: Mourvèdre
Mourvèdre, or Monastrell as it’s known its ancestral home of Spain, is a rich, full-bodied, spicy red grape. If you’re one of those people that are in love with Cabernet Sauvignon then Mourvèdre is going to be your new favorite.
Mourvèdre originated in Spain, most likely in the Valencia region in the town of Murviedro. In fact, it is the fourth most planted red variety in Spain. And Spain is still home to the majority of vines planted worldwide. However, it has also been planted in Southern France for centuries and while it is still a prominent grape in Spain, it is losing ground in favor of grapes like Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. In France, on the other hand, it has been gaining popularity. And the name we use, Mourvèdre, is the French version instead of the Spanish.
NOT EVERYONE CAN BE POPULAR
Mourvèdre began to fall out of favor in Spain because traditionally it had been used to produce a high quantity of wine, instead of high-quality wines. Forcing vines to produce high yields of grapes typically results in fairly weak tasting, uninteresting fruit, and therefore wine. More recently, some producers have begun experimenting with lowering their yields. Additionally, some of the older vines, which inherently have lower yields, are producing some very high-quality fruit in Spain. These wines are full of black fruits, dark spices, fresh herbs, and leathery notes. There is also a small amount of rosé, or Rosado, produced in Spain using Mourvèdre that are very excellent wines, however, they are rarely exported.
SUBLIME IN THE SOUTH
In France, the grape is planted all along the southern regions of the country, from Languedoc, near the Spanish border, to the Rhone Valley and Provence. In both Languedoc and Provence, Mourvèdre is used mainly as a blending grape. The dark inky-wines it produces help to add depth and structure to the blends in these regions. However, in Provence, specifically in Bandol, Mourvèdre is used to produce extremely interesting single varietal bottlings’ of the grape. Here the wines are full of notes of black pepper, gamey meat, spice, and ripe black fruits.
Outside of Europe, Mourvèdre is planted fairly widely in California. The grape takes well to the climate of California, where it has enough sunlight to ripen fully but not too much heat. The wines produced here are mostly used in blends, however, single varietal bottles are not uncommon. Typically, these wines lack some of the structure and color of the European style. In California, Mourvèdre tends to be more fruit-forward and less spicy and is often used in blends.
Much like Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre is an excellent pairing with rich meats. Anything from red meat to game, to stews and sausages will do the trick. Because peppery and spice notes are a prominent feature of the wines, matching those flavors in the food is always a good call. Nutty cheeses, like Parmesan, are also an excellent match with Mourvèdre. Rule of thumb with pairing, many strong-flavored foods, that could potentially overwhelm other wines are often a great companion for a well structured Mourvèdre.
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