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In praise of Mourvedre

beaucastel1.JPGThe following is part of a series of short pieces I write for Brighton community newspaper the Westhill Whistler:

 If you’re new to wine writing and you come across the acronym GSM you’d be forgiven for assuming it was something to avoid in your wine or at least treated with suspicion – in the same category perhaps as GM or MSG. In fact it’s accepted short hand for the classic blend of “Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre” that dominates red wine production here in the south of France and is increasingly popular in parts of the New World. The minor player and least well known by far of this triumvirate is the Mourvèdre. Its origins are Spanish where it’s known as Monastrell. To add to the confusion surrounding it the wine makers of California and Australia generally call it Mataro. If I add that this grape variety’s popular name in France is “estrange chien” (strangle a dog) due to its fierce tannic properties when under-ripe, you might further wander what place it has in the classic GSM blend and why I have entitled this piece Marvellous Mourvèdre?

 

The fact is that when fully ripe this is the variety that contributes many of the flavour and aroma components that I find most compelling. Its main friut character is blackberry but in truth fruit is not it’s forté – young Mourvèdre is all about garrigue herb, grilled meats and just a touch of animal barnyard. In full maturity it develops rich leather and game flavours.  These properties account for its key role within the GSM blend adding interest to Grenache’s fruity and Syrah’s spicy character. In short Mouvèdre is often the key to real complexity.  Most Mourvèdre ends up in a blend but if you want to explore the variety solo that’s certainly possible – I would recommmend you seek out the french appellation Bandol. The wines here contain up to 80% Mourvèdre, they are big tannic wines but not without finesse and with an ability to age for several decades – top names are Pibarnon and Tempier.

With global warming allowing better ripening conditions for “difficult” varieties, and demand growing for rich red wines with high alcohol, my forecast is Mourvèdre has a great future and will become increasingly visible to the wine buying public.

 

How best to experiment? My “best buys” would include the Spanish Castano Monestrall 2006 Yecla availble from Avery’s at just £6.29 per bottle. A wine packed with damson and black cherry fruit, sweet vanilla as well as spice and game, this is a veritable bargain – wines from this property regularly gain scores of 90+ from Robert Parker making its “cost per Parker score” rating unbeatable. If you’re minded to splash out, go for the sublime Bandol Domaine Tempier 2006 vintage available from the Wine Society for £19.00 a botttle, or if you believe the only way through the recession is to persue hedonism with abandon why not invest in one of the finest wines in the world, the vintage 2000 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape available from Berry Brothers at just £51.85 the bottle – a wine with a significant 30% Mourvèdre content and a wine to lose yourself in! Cheers



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