In this blog series, we will rediscover some of the ‘forgotten’ wines of France. The focus in this article is Mourvedre. (Disclaimer: I realize that not all the varietals we will explore are actually native to France. In fact regardless of country, most wines were transported, transplanted, grafted and blended from somewhere else centuries ago. That history predates the concern of these blog posts.)
This deep red, robust-looking wine originates in Spain but found a friendly growing area in France. In the Rhone region, it is one of the three grapes in the classic red blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (often referred to by its initials, GSM). In the Bandol region of Provence, Mourvedre must constitute at least 50% of the wine in red blends, with Grenache and Cinsault typically making up the difference.
Until recently, Mourvedre was used primarily as a blending wine. One theory for this is that the wine’s deep, gothic appearance scared producers away from making a wine based mostly on Mourvedre. Thankfully, the tides are changing. A number of more experimental wine makers in California are producing standalone Mourvedres, finding their earthy, gamey and leathery tones to be a delightful match for lighter food such as chicken, pork or grilled vegetables.
The sweet lingering components overall belie Mourvedre’s heavy appearance. There are currently approximately 400 acres of Mourvedre under cultivation in California.
Its naturally thick grape skins are perhaps an evolutionary protection for the fact that Mourvedre ripens quite late in the season, sometimes not until November, which often is past the first rains. The thick skins protect the grapes from bursting with moisture. It also is a wine that ages long and well.
Rhone Rangers has a great writeup on Mourvedre that I encourage you to read to learn more about this wonderful forgotten wine of France.
I would love to hear what you think about Mourvedre. Please share your experiences with us here. Thanks!