Mourvedre is a black skinned grape variety best known as being a component of Chatueaneuf-du-Pape. Mourvedre is believed to have originated in Spain, and made its way to France by the 1600's. This grape is planted in many regions throughout the world including France, Spain, Australia, California and Washington State.
This grape has a reputation for being difficult to grow. It requires warm weather and plenty of irrigation to produce quality fruit. It ripens late and its tight clusters of grapes can make it susceptible to powdery and downy mildew.
Mourvedre is mainly used as a blending wine, with very few Varietal wines being produced using these grapes. Mourvedre is typically high in tannins, with strong “Farmyard” aromas. Both the tannins and farmyard aromas tend to mellow with bottle ageing.
Mourvedre is thought to be a native of Spain, first grown in Murviedro near Valencia. and was eventually brought to Provence, France some time during the Middle Ages and spread into the Rhone where it became the dominant varietal. But the late 19th century Phylloxera epidemic was very unkind to the grape and hybrid graftings that otherwise salvaged many grape varieties proved resistant to much of the Mourvedre. The ones that survived were planted in the sandy soil of the Bandol and Mediterranean coast. For this reason, most of the Rhone was replanted with other graft-friendly varietals such as Syrah and Grenache. After World War II stronger rootstocks were developed and planted. Jacques Perrin of Chateau Beaucastel began blending the grape into Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Since then, plantings throughout the Rhone and other parts of France have steadily increased once again. Mourvedre made it's way to Australia (as Mataro) in the first wave of European plantings in the mid 1800s, and also made its first appearance in California around the same time. Since the 1990's the grape has gained some traction in Australia with the increase in production, and popularity of GSM (Grenache,Shiraz and Mourvedre) blends produced here.
Spain: Mourvedre is the second most widely planted grape in Spain behind Grenache. This grape variety thrives here in the regions of Alicante, Yecla, Jumilla and Valencia. An increasing amount of these wines are being imported into the United States labeled as Monastrell, many people wouldn't even realize they are actually drinking Mourvedre. Spanish Mourvedre is inexpensive and makes for nice, easy drinking fruit-driven wine. Of course, there are some higher quality, more complex reds and dessert wines being produced using this grape, with a few Spanish producers of note being Castano, Olivares, Casa Castillo, Carchelo, Las Renas and Case de la Ermita.
France: Due to it's need for sunshine and warm weather, Mourvedre doesn't grow much farther north than the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC in the southern Rhone and even there they sometimes have trouble getting the grape ripe in cooler vintages. It tends to most consistently producer in the warmer Provençal region of Bandol AOC along the Mediterranean coast where the growing season averages 40°f warmer. While plantings have declined in Spain, they have been steadily increasing in France, particularly in the Languedoc-Roussillon region where the grape variety has been growing in popularity as both a varietal wine and as a blending component. After the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century and with declining interest in the variety for most of the 20th century, there were less than 900 ha in 1968, mostly in the southern Rhone and the Bandol AOC of Provence. But the spark of interest and international investment in the Languedoc saw planting sharply increase and by 2000 there were over 7,600 ha of Mourvedre planted throughout Southern France.
United States: Mourvedre first arrived in the United States in the 1860's. It is primarily found in California and Washington State, with small plantings also found in Virginia.
Santa Clara County was the first place to plant Mourvedre in the United States, back in the 1860's. The variety was known as Mataro and plantings spread across the state where it was grown for use in the production of bulk jug style wines. Plantings rapidly declined from a high of 2700 acres in 1968, to less than a third of that by the year 2000. The grape may well have disappeared altogether had it not been for the Rhone Rangers who used the grape to produce some fine Rhone Style blends which became critically acclaimed. As of 2010 there were 900 acres planted here.
Australia: There are around 3,000 acres of Mourvedre grown in Australia. The grape here is known as Mataro though more producers have begun adopting the French name Mourvedre. While the grape has a long history of being used for generic cask wines and fortified wine, it has recently become more popular in highly acclaimed GSM blends with Grenache and Syrah.
Mourvedre produces tannic wines that can be high in alcohol. The wines it produces are often full-bodied, dark and inky in color. Described as silky and velvety with flavors of blackberry, dark plum, chocolate, espresso, gamey, dark olive, truffles, and licorice. These grapes are most successful in Rhone-style, or GSM blends. It has a particular affinity for Grenache, softening it and giving it structure. These wines pair well with hearty country food such as turkey dinners, pork roasts and vegetables.