Red Wine Basics: Mourvedre

Mourvedre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mourvèdre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mourvedre (more-VEH-dra) is a red wine grape variety thought to have originated in Spain. The grape is believed to have been named after the Spanish town Murviedro, though in Spain, the grape is known as Monastrell. In Australia, Portugal and other parts of the New World it is called Mataro. The U.S. officially recognizes the name Mourvedre, though in California, Mataro is often associated with the grape. No matter the name, Mourvedre is difficult to mistake with strong gamy flavors that many find off-turning.

A Bit of History
Let’s start with the history. The variety most likely originated in Spain and was introduced to France before the Phylloxera louse outbreak of the late 19th century. After the outbreak, many grape varieties were saved by grafting onto Phylloxera resistant rootstocks, however a suitable rootstock for Mourvedre could not be found. The grape’s popularity in France fell dramatically, and plantings were sparse. After World War II, resistant rootstocks were finally discovered, making the vine more popular to grow in France. Mourvedre is often associated with the Rhone wine region.

Varietals and Blends
Though currently gaining popularity in the marketplace, Mourvedre varietals aren’t widely produced due to a very distinctive flavor that not all wine drinkers are fond of. Its meaty, herbaceous flavors and very strong tannins are best suited to blending. One of its most popular blending partners, Grenache, with its light color, low tannin and low acidity benefits from the darker, highly tannic and highly acidic Mourvedre. Syrah, with its mineral spiciness is also a popular Mourvedre blending partner. Other flavors and aromas associated with Mourvedre are red fruit, chocolate, mint, leather and earth.

Its high tannin levels make Mourvedre suitable for aging, though it is more approachable at a young age than Grenache or Syrah. Mourvedre has an interesting aging pattern. At middle-age, which is about 2 to 5 years, the wine closes down and becomes harsh and tight, but once the wine ages past this period, it re-opens, losing some of its gamy, animal flavor and exhibiting the flavors of earth, leather and chocolate. A strong Mourvedre will need to be aged for quite a while before maturing into a top-notch wine, but the longer the process takes, the better the result.

Mourvedre pairs well with flavorful dishes and rich meats such as pork, lamb and rabbit. The wine is outstanding with grilled meats as well as charred vegetables. Spicy dishes are superb with Mourvedre, as well as those dishes with a red sauce base. Pair with mushrooms, dark chocolate and cheeses to pick up on the lighter flavors which accent a good Mourvedre.

This completes my exploration of Mourvedre. Join me next time for a look at Nebbiolo, an Italian red grape variety.

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Louise Bryant

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