Midalidare’s grape varieties: Mourvedre
Part 2: The terroirs
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Growing Mourvedre is not recommended for vignerons without a great deal of patience. The vines take several years before they begin to produce fruit of any quality – sometimes five years can pass before a Mourvedre vine yields its first harvest. The variety is also a late ripener, one of the very last to be picked. In the coastal hills of Provence (particularly around Bandol), Mourvedre is deliberately planted on warmer, south-facing slopes to speed up the ripening process, while Syrah and Grenache are planted on cooler, north-facing slopes.
In France, Mourvedre is a key variety in both Provence and the southern Rhone Valley, where it is a regular component in Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape blends.
In Spain, modern viticultural fashions have shifted the focus towards Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, though Monastrell is regaining some of its former importance. At one time it was the second most planted red wine variety in Spain (behind Garnacha).
In Australia and California, Mourvedre is often called Mataro, although the prestige associated with its French name has encouraged many producers to abandon the term Mataro. Australian and Californian examples of the variety are typically richer and more fruit-driven than those produced around the Mediterranean.
Since the late 1980s, awareness and appreciation of Mourvеdre increased worldwide so that it has been planted much more in both the southern Rhоne and the Languedoc-Roussillon. Accordingly, France’s total plantings of Mourvеdre increased eightfold in the last three decades of the 20th century and Mourvèdre is now an increasingly important ingredient in reds, adding considerable flesh to the blend, typically representing 10% of a blend dominated by Grenache with a bit of Syrah too.
This holy trinity of the southern Rhоne, and the recognition that Mataro was identical to Mourvеdre, has now spawned an entirely new wine term, ‘GSM’, for blends of Grenache, Shiraz (the Australian name for Syrah) and Mourvеdre, whose warmth and depth of flavour has been so popular with consumers.
Australia had long had old plantings of a vine regarded as rather rustic called Mataro. It had none of the glamour associated with the fancy French import Cabernet Sauvignon until in the early 1990s it began to be renamed Mourvedre and blended with the produce of ancient Grenache vines and Shiraz to produce GSMs Demand for these wines grew so that the old plantings of Grenache and Mourvedre in the dry heat of Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale were re-evaluated, growers stopped pulling these dry-farmed vine stumps out and started asking much more money for their produce.
Exactly the same thing happened in California. The warm spiciness of Rhône reds was distinctly appealing, so Syrah vines went into the ground pretty rapidly, while old plantings of Mataro took on new allure. In California, however, varietal, and relatively expensive, bottlings of Mourvеdre are not uncommon.
Following in the wake of the success of Syrah, Mourvedre is now being grown in Washington state too.
But by far the majority of the world’s plantings are still in Spain, where, as Monastrell, it is the country’s fourth most planted red wine variety. There are now hundreds of inexpensive bottlings from regions such as Jumilla, Yecla and Alicante, where producers have already shown that truly fine wines can also be made from Monastrell.
In Mogilovo (Bulgaria) the variety is planted in the central zone of the biologically certified vineyard Dabovets. Climatic and soil conditions are specific and determine the need for special care for Mоurvedre vines. The plantations are with southwestern exposure and the yield is controlled. Only two wines are produced from Mourvedre in Midalidare, both of the Rose type: Rose de Mourvedre and Rose de Mourvedre Singe Barrel.