It's not a grape for those who want fruit, fruit and nothing but fruit in their wine. But if you enjoy both blackberry fruit and a delicious blend of spice, herbal and earthy flavors that may evoke "tree bark" and the forest floor along with nuances of grilled meat or game in a complex, tart, often tannic and ageworthy wine that makes you stop and think, "Hey, what's that?" then you might want to give Mourvèdre a try.
Growing best in warmer climates, Mourvèdre makes its natural home along the Mediterranean and in hotter New World regions. Curiously, it probably takes its name from the Spanish village of Murviedro, where it may have originated; but that name has migrated to France. The Spanish, who grow it extensively, usually call it Monastrell, while English-speaking Californians and Australians dub it with the Spanish-sounding Mataro. This is one of those tricky complications that makes wine appreciation a constant learning process, but it's worth taking the time to get to know this one.
It's often blended with other grapes, where its aggressively earthy qualities are muted in combination with Grenache, Carignan and other Mediterranean varieties, but it's also found as a 100 percent varietal. Bandol produces some of the best, where such brands as Domaine Tempier and Pibarnon have become quite pricey; Bandol from the tiny producer Domaine Ste. Anne is also well worth seeking out. Ridge, the renowned California producer of great Zinfandel and the top-rank Monte Bello Cabernet, makes an excellent Mataro, and you'll find plenty of affordable examples of Spanish Monastrell and Languedoc Mourvèdre, like the excellent item I report below.
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Excellent value Mourvèdre
This all-Mourvèdre wine from a top producer in one of the Languedoc's most exciting regions stands out as the best $10 value I have found in a long, long time. It is a very dark ruby color, almost opaque, full and ripe, full of earthy and complex Mourvèdre notes, "tree bark" and "forest floor," prompting my wife to liken it to "a walk in the woods on a rainy autumn day." But there's fresh fruit there, too, raspberry and black-cherry, with lemony acidity to give it structure. This vintage has been around for a while, but the 1999, coming on the market now, is also reported to be very fine. U.S. importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. (Jan. 16, 2001)
FOOD MATCH: Delicious with a Provence dish crafted to match: Lamb chunks stewed with aromatic flavors of orange peel, fennel, bay leaf, black pepper and thyme.
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Vol. 3, No. 1, Jan. 22, 2001