Mourvèdre – Warm Weather Wonder
Mourvèdre (moor-ved), also known as Mataró or Monastrell, is an important grape in the warm, arid regions of Texas. It was back in 2016 when this grape was last discussed on these pages, so it’s time for an update. Mourvèdre is also grown throughout warm weather areas of Europe, especially along the Mediterranean Coast of Spain and France. There are plantings in Australia and other parts of the U.S., but the biggest current impact from Mourvèdre is here in the Lone Star State. Many styles of wine are made from Mourvèdre, ranging from rosés to lighter reds, and from dark, full-bodied reds to port-style wines.
Many believe Mourvèdre originated in Spain, near Mataró, Cataluña, outside Barcelona. The local village name was Mourviedeo, from which the grape likely derived its name when introduced into southern France. Today the grape is called Mataró locally and Monastrell more widely, names that sometimes appear on U.S. producers’ labels.
After the European phylloxera scourge (late 1800’s) most French vineyards were replanted with Vitis vinifera varieties grafted to American rootstock. Since Mourvèdre did not take well to grafting, many French vineyards were replanted to other varieties. However, sandy soils are not conducive to fostering the phylloxera root louse, so places with maritime-derived sandy soils became havens for Mourvèdre. Although this grape is being widely grown in Texas, only in the Bandol appellation of Provence, France, and in some of the eastern coastal regions of Spain, is Mourvèdre a major player in Europe.
Mourvèdre grows best where it gets plenty of heat and sunshine to fully ripen, like right here in Texas. It also buds late, an advantage it enjoys over Tempranillo in avoiding spring frost and hail damage. The vines do require timely and sufficient water and, because of the propensity to generate tight fruit clusters, can be susceptible to diseases like powdery and downy mildew. Thus, diligent and efficient farming practices are required. At most any gathering of Texas wine growers and makers, Mourvèdre will be discussed as a key grape for the future of Texas wine.
In every region in which it is grown, Mourvèdre is popular for rosé winemaking. The wines can be made as a dedicated rosé where skins are allowed brief contact with the juice to introduce minimum color, or as saignée where some of the juice destined for a red Mourvèdre is "bled off" before fermentation to create two separate wines—a darker, more concentrated red and a lighter rosé.
Mourvèdre produces small thick-skinned berries that are high in both color and flavor phenolics that can lead to dark, tannic wines with lots of alcohol. The wines often exhibit wild game and/or earthy notes when younger, with soft red berry fruit flavors emerging as the wines age. Mourvèdre is high in natural antioxidants, thus it can age well. It is a key component in the French wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Bandol, Spanish Monastrell, and the increasingly popular GSM blends from around the world (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre). Mourvèdre wines do not absorb oak flavoring well, so most are aged in neutral oak barrels or in stainless steel or concrete vessels. Texas now produces a number of varietal Mourvèdre wines, and has joined with producers from Australia and other parts of the U.S. to highlight GSM blends. Just a note - here in Texas, many GSM blends contain more Mourvèdre than either Syrah or Grenache (MSG blends? LOL).