Despite the fact that it can produce excellent wines on its own, Mourvedre is one of those grape varieties that is best known as a blending partner. It plays a key role in the great red blends of the Rhône Valley, and is one of the marquis components of Australia’s beloved GSM blends (GSM, after all, stands for Grenache – Syrah – Mourvedre). On its own, Mourvèdre is dominant in the French wine region of Bandol, where it produces reds and rosés of serious depth and character. In Spain and California, where it’s known as Monastrell and Mataro, respectively, the variety is capable of producing wines that balance fruit and more savory tones beautifully.
Mourvedre is a red or rosé wine produced from the grape of the same name. Interestingly, however, most examples on the market aren't labeled as such. Though single-variety Mourvedre exists, the most common Mourvedre-reliant examples from the Bandol region of France, are labeled with the name of the place on it — Bandol or Bandol Rosé — as opposed to the grape variety itself. It's important to note here that official regulations for Bandol only require the wines to contain at least 50% Mourvedre, so the actual percentage of Mourvedre in any given producer's Bandol is likely to change; these tend to be blends, albeit Mourvedre-reliant ones. In GSM blends, Mourvedre appears alongside its popular blending partners Grenache and Syrah. In its Spanish incarnation, Mourvedre is typically called Monastrell, and in California (and sometimes Australia), it is also called Mataro. Regardless, Mourvedre's lack of name recognition, which could also be a result of its shifting nomenclature around the world, should not be taken as a sign of any sort of inferiority or shortcoming. It is very important in blends, lending savoriness and structure, while still producing excellent wines on its own.
Mourvèdre is most commonly associated with Southern France and, to a lesser degree, Australia. In France, it is used in the great red blends of the Southern Rhône, where it is classically brought together primarily with Syrah and Grenache, as well as other red grapes. It’s one of the 13 permitted grape varieties of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but is planted in many other Rhône appellations, as well. Further southeast in Bandol, Mourvèdre is the most important red grape variety and is used to produce both reds and rosés of serious personality – in Bandol, it must be at least 50% of the blend. Mourvèdre is used in similar blends in Australia; the famous GSM reds there utilize Mourvedre as well, and the savoriness and spice it adds to the wines is unmistakable. The grape also thrives in Spain, especially in Jumilla and Valencia, under the name Monastrell. The region of Yecla is also home to excellent wines from Monastrell. And in California (where it goes by both Mourvèdre and Mataro), it can be found both on its own and in blends. There are producers in Washington State and Texas too, that are finding success with the variety. In the latter, look for the “GSM Mélange” from Pedernales Cellars; it’s a vibrant, mouthwatering red that brings together Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. As the climate continues to change, it’s likely that plantings of Mourvèdre, which can thrive in hotter temperatures, will become even more widespread.
Mourvedre is one of those grape varieties that deserves far more attention that it tends to receive. And while it may not be nearly as famous as many of its red Rhône counterparts — Syrah and Grenache are much more familiar to most consumers — it nonetheless is capable of producing wines of serious character. With notes of plum and brambly berry fruit and spice, as well as a meaty character, Mourvedre is likely to appeal to fans of richer wines who are looking for something a bit different from the usual Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.
When it comes to pairing with food, Mourvedre is a fantastic option, especially alongside dishes that are packed with rich and powerful flavors. For example, Mourvedre shines alongside classic barbecue, especially smoke-kissed ribs or pulled pork shoulder. It also has enough spice to stand up to assertive seasoning, whether in a spice rub or in a slightly sweeter or peppery sauce.
Mourvedre produces red wines that tend to have rich, dark plum and brambly berry notes, as well as occasionally assertive spice (think cracked peppercorns and dried Mediterranean herbs) and a savory, often meaty characteristic that anchors it all. Passing hints of dried flowers like violets are also not uncommon
Mourvedre is best enjoyed from a Cabernet Sauvignon or universal-style wine glass; the more air you can swirl into it, the better. Because of its generally higher levels of alcohol, a very slight chill will attenuate much of the risk of the Mourvedre tasting unpleasantly "boozy," which can happen if it's served too warm. Remove it from a 55*F wine fridge for 20 minutes before savoring it. If the bottle has been stored at room temperature, placing it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes will work, too.
There are countless great Mourvedre wines and Mourvedre blends on the market today. These five producers, listed alphabetically, are a perfect way to start exploring all that Mourvedre has to offer.
Bodegas Atalaya
Based in Valencia, Spain, this producer crafts a range of delicious reds. "La Atalaya del Camino" brings together Garnacha and Monastrell in a blend that, in 2020, reached 15.5% alcohol by volume. If you're looking for a bold red for your next weekend meal from the grill or smoker, this is a solid option.
Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe
The Châteauneuf-du-Pape "La Crau" from this highly regarded producer usually incorporates Mourvedre in its critically acclaimed reds. In 2018, Mourvedre accounted for 15% of the blend, lending it density and meaty notes alongside brighter hints of mixed berries and flowers.
Penfolds
The beloved Australian producer's Bin 138 brings together Shiraz, Grenache, and Mataro in a wine that embodies why GSMs from Down Under are so beloved. With generous fruit to spare, a smart use of oak, and freshness alongside muscle, this is a winner vintage after vintage.
Ridge
Ridge incorporates Mataro into a number of its wines and even bottles a varietally labeled one, the excellent Gonsalves Mataro. Easier to find, however, is the Ridge Syrah Grenache Mataro red, which boasts all of the complexity and savoriness that fans look for, plus a hit of berries and spice.
Château Pradeaux
One of Bandol's classic producers, Château Pradeaux doesn't only make terrific reds –– their Bandol Rosé is also a standout. The 2020 is ripe and savory and is an example of a rosé that has the potential to age for a few more years … not something that can be said for most. It's an even blend of Mourvedre and Cinsault.
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