Mourvèdre (moor-VED-rah)

If you were ever an English major, you’ll know what I mean by this: mourvèdre is the Heathcliff of red grapes. It’s dark, hard-edged, almost brooding flavors are never light, juicy, or lively. Mourvèdre has gravitas. Like carignan and grenache, the grape is Spanish in origin. It should properly be known by its Spanish name monastrell (or mataró as its called in northern Spain and in the Pyrennes.) Today, it is grown in numerous provinces in the south-central region of Castilla La Mancha (especially in the denomination of Jumilla) where it’s used to make delicious, sometimes muscular wines with dry, bitter espresso-like flavors (red meat is helpful when consuming them). The variety is thought to have originated next door to Castilla la Mancha in the province of Valencia where it was propagated by monks. The name derives from the Latin monasteriellu, a diminutive of monasteriu, meaning “monastery.” In southern France, a small amount of mourvèdre is often used to give depth, color, and kick to Rhône blends like Châteaunef-du-Pape and Côtes-du-Rhône. Indeed, before the phylloxera epidemic, mourvèdre was widely planted throughout the south and was the main red grape in Provence. Today, only the small Provençal appellation of Bandol remains steadfast mourvèdre territory. Mourvèdre was first brought to California from Spain in the mid-1800s and sparse plots of old vine “mataro” can still be found. The grape became popular once again in the 1980s as a blending grape in California’s Rhône-style blends.


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