Big red: Mourvèdre
I like wine in all colors, shapes and sizes: White, red, even pink; dry or sweet or in-between, still or fizzy. But anyone who follows my tasting reports for any time will soon notice that there's about a two-to-one chance that my choice on any given day will be red.
There's something about red wines that I particularly enjoy. You can get your teeth into them, and they speak of the vine, the land and the soil. (Yeah, I know. A lot of white wines do, too. But I'm on a red riff today.)
Getting to the point of today's discussion, one red variety that particularly appeals to me is Mourvèdre ("Moor-VED'r"), a sturdy grape that generally makes an earthy, mouth-filling wine. It finds its natural home on the rocky hillsides of Bandol near the Mediterranean in Provence, but that shows up around the wine-growing world under a variety of local names like Monastrell (in Spain) and occasionally Mataro (in California and Australia).
If you would like a little more background on this grape variety, check the Wine Advisor archives for my Jan. 22, 2001 article, "Marvelous Mourvèdre,"
For today, though, let's move right along to my reports on two affordable Mourvèdre-based wines that I enjoy checking out as soon as the new vintage arrives each year. First up, Casa Castillo 2001 Monastrell from Jumilla ("Hoo-MEE-yah") in Spain, is a great bargain; and it's a rare thing, a budget-level wine that will actually get even better with careful cellaring. Today's Australian entry is the 2001 Bin 2 Shiraz-Mourvèdre from the historic Penfolds winery, a bottling that Penfolds, curiously enough, offers only for export but does not sell at home.
Casa Castillo 2001 Jumilla Monastrell ($7.99)
Year in and year out, this Spanish red based on Mourvèdre ("Monastrell" in Spanish) is a bargain favorite, and the 2001 is drinking exceptionally well right now. Very dark ruby in color, almost black, it breathes ripe, plummy fruit aromas with a whiff of the earthy "tree bark" that's characteristic of the grape. Full and tart, lemon-squirt acidity and rough tannins surround ample black fruit flavors. It's a bit wild and rustic, but food tames it. U.S. importer: Jorge Ordoñez, represented by Cutting Edge Selections, Fairfax, Ohio., and other regional importers. (Feb. 23, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Stands up nicely to pork chops bonne maman braised with potatoes and onions.
VALUE: One of the top bargains of the year at this low-end price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Its full fruit carries it now despite the tannins, but like many Mourvèdres it may gain complexity and balance with several years of careful cellaring.
WEB LINK: The Jumilla wine producers association has an informative Website in Spanish and English at
Penfolds 2001 Bin 2 South Eastern Australia Shiraz-Mourvèdre ($9.99)
Very dark reddish-purple with ruby glints. Peppery black fruit and pleasant floral aromas add a "green" nuance that's hard to pin down: Sappy, leafy, something like anise. Mouth-filling and bright, its flavor shows black fruit and piercing acidity that curls the sides of your tongue. Great with food, if a bit on the tart side for sipping by itself. A blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Mourvèdre. U.S. importer: PWG Vintners USA Inc., Napa, Calif. (Feb. 21, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: A natural match with beef; I served it with medium-rare ribeye steaks laced with plenty of black pepper.
VALUE: Very good value at the $10 point.
WHEN TO DRINK: The back label says the wine "is made to be enjoyed immediately," but with all this fruit and acid, it certainly won't go anywhere if you hold it for a year or two.
ABOUT THAT "BIN" NUMBER: One of our most frequently asked questions is, "What does the Australian 'Bin Number' mean?" In fact, it's just an arbitrary designation. For more on this story, see the May 31, 2001 Wine Advisor, "What's in the Bin?" at
WEB LINK: Penfolds has a fact sheet about Bin 2 in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format at
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Christie's: 2-3 months
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is currently distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
This thing about France (Feb. 21)
Is fruit necessary? (Feb. 19)
Wine travel plans (Feb. 17)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Scalloped potatoes without guilt (Feb. 20)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Feb. 24, 2003