Mourvèdre as a cultivated
wine variety originated in Spain, where it is also called mataro or monastrell.
Over 250,000 acres are planted there and, although many
vineyards are intermingled with the bobal variety,
only grenache outnumbers total monastrell acreage. It is the
principal black grape of the five appellations that cluster
on Spain's Southeastern Mediterranean Coast, Almansa, Valencia,
Alicante, Jumilla, and Yecla. Prior to the late Nineteenth
Century phyloxera devastation, mourvèdre was also widely
planted in Southern France.
There are contradictions and
anomolies in the growth characteristics and properties of
mourvèdre vines. Mourvèdre is a very late variety
in both bud break and ripening season. It can recover quite
well from Spring frosts, but sometimes succombs to cold
Winter temperatures. It craves heat and survives in locations too windy for other varieties, but can be drought-sensitive.
nearly drove mourvèdre to extinction, because the vines
took so poorly to grafting that most vineyardists deemed the
results not worth the effort. Replanting did not begin seriously
until following World War II, 60 years after the devastation,
when sufficient vinestock was developed that had both adapted
to grafting and had consistent production history.
Until the late 1960s, however,
the main French plantings of mourvèdre were in Provence,
where it is the dominant grape in Bandol. Total mourvèdre
vineyards in France increased from under 2,200 acres in 1968 to
nearly 14,000 by 1988.
Mourvèdre is a slow-ripening
variety that develops tight bunches of grapes that need good
ventilation to avoid rot. It seems to do best in windy climates
like Southern France, in parts of Spain and Algeria, and in Australia, where it is called mataro.
Wine makers frequently use mourvèdre's dark, thick-skinned berries in blends to boost color and tannin, but often bemoan its absence of distinct flavors and proclivity to oxidation, which co-fermentation with other varieties can help to avoid. Beginning in the early 1980s, several Australian wineries popularized various blends of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mataro as "GSM" wines; the combination has also become common in California.
wines tend to be deep-colored, quite tannic, although somewhat moderate in acid and alcohol,
and have generally "earthy-spicy" aromas in their youth. The "gamey" aroma often found in mourvèdre may be accentuated by this variety's inclination to become contaminated with brettanomyces.
Mourvèdre Smell and/or Flavor
depends upon individual tasting ability and experience
and is also affected by terroir and seasonal conditions,
as well as viticultural and enological techniques.
This list therefore is
merely suggestive and neither comprehensive nor exclusive.
Spice: earth, thyme, clove, cinnamon, black
(heavy): oak, smoke, toast, tar,
|Faunal: animal, gamey, savory
||Faunal: animal (brettanomyces?)
|Fruit: pomegranate, blackberry
In California, mourvèdre
was historically called mataro and was losing ground literally until
the demand for Rhône-type varietals began to surge in
the late 1980s. Even today, more than 60% of the 800+ acres planted
statewide are in Madera, Contra Costa, and San Luis Obispo Counties.
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2. Benjamin Lewin, Wine Myths and Reality, (Vendage Press: Dover, DE) 2010
4. Jancis Robinson (ed), Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes, (Oxford University Press: New York) 1996
5. L. Peter Christensen, Nick K. Dokoozlian, M. Andrew Walker, James A Wolpert, et all. Wine Grape Varieties in California (University of California, Agricultural and Natural Resources Publications: Oakland) 2003
6. Charles Sullivan, A Companion to California Wine: An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present (University of California Press: Berkeley) 1998
8. Steven Spurrier & Michel Dovaz, Academie du Vin, Complete Wine Course (G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York) 1983
9. Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator's: The Essentials Of Wine, (Wine Spectator Press: New York) 2000