Mourvedre GrapesMourvedre, or “Mataro” as it is known in its native Spain, is a thick-skinned, slow-ripening red grape that has until recently languished in relative obscurity. Lacking the star power of varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, it has typically played a minor, supporting role in the winemaking process. When blended with other grapes such as Grenache and Syrah, Mourvedre’s dark color, strong tannins and a reductive, “animal” character add structure and body.

This combination is often found in the Southern Rhone valley in appellations such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but is also beginning to appear elsewhere as well, such as in Australia, where winemakers are producing more and more “GSM” (Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz, Mourvedre) wines in the “Rhone-style.” In the Rhone Valley Château de Beaucastel is well known for producing excellent Châteauneuf with as much as 30% Mourvedre.

While Mourvedre’s earthy, gamey character has dissuaded some winemakers from producing single-varietal wines with it, the Bandol appellation in Provence is home to wines made from all or almost-all Mourvedre grapes.  Mourvedre does very well in the Provençal terroir, and Bandol wines are seen as one of the best expressions of this underappreciated varietal.

In the US as well producers are starting to experiment with using Mourvedre in a more central role. In Washington State, McCrea Cellars is producing a blend of 90% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah to much critical acclaim. Well-known Ridge Vineyards in California also produces a “Mataro” made with 95% Mourvedre.

As a huge fan of Rhone-style wines I’ve had a growing interest in Mourvedre, and have been trying it in a wide variety of styles and proportions. Finding Mourvedre wines in Japan isn’t difficult, and I’ve included some links to some of the wines I know and like below. Give them a try and see what you think!

Château Belot Château Les Mouleyres 2005
Syrah 60%, Mourvèdre 30%, Grenache noir 10%

Les Vignerons de Terrats Les Pierre Plates Rouge 2006
Syrah 44%, Mourvèdre 38%, Carignan 18%

Château Vannières Rouge 2004
Mourvèdre 90%, Grenache 10%

McCrea Mourvedre 2006
84% Mourvèdre, 16% Syrah

Tour du Bon Bandol 2005
55% Mourvèdre, 35% Grenache, 10% Cinsault