Perhaps best known for its role in the three-way blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre pioneered in France’s Rhône Valley, the “M” of GSM has also earned solo fame under a trio of names: Mourvèdre, of course, but also as Monastrell in Spain, and Mataro, as it’s sometimes called, in Australia and California.
In France, Mourvèdre retains a Provençal hold in Bandol. There, it’s used as a main component of rosé production, but can be found in full-bodied varietal offerings or as an element of red blends. Farther along the coast, some Languedoc-Roussillon producers craft structured wines with notes of blackberries, violets and licorice. It’s winemakers in hotter climates around the world, however, that aim to see what the grape is capable of.
The grape has had deep roots in southeast Spain for centuries. Plantings concentrate in the sandy and rocky soils of Alicante, Bullas, Jumilla and Yecla, where the summer heat and abundant sunshine cause Monastrell to ripen fully and develop complexities, and ungrafted rootstock can grow into small bush vines.
In high-quality bottlings, the grape’s deep black-fruit flavors typically come alongside bolder medicinal and black licorice notes. Juan Gil, Bodegas Luzón and Crápula Wines all make great examples.
The grape made its way Down Under in the 1830s, and the world’s oldest Mourvèdre vineyard, Barossa Valley’s Old Garden, was planted in 1853. Once used for popular fortified wines, some now use those old vines for complexity. Hewitson’s Old Garden Mourvèdre is one that relies on this fruit, so does its more affordable Baby Bush bottling. In the Barossa Valley, John Duval Wines is another that makes notable Mataro, while McLaren Vale’s Ess & See produces a rare single-vineyard offering.
Mourvèdre got its North American start in present-day California in the 1800s. Mainly used in blends following Prohibition, the grape’s course shifted in the 1980s thanks to the Rhone Rangers, led by winemakers Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon and John Alban of Alban Vineyards. Today, offerings can be found throughout the state. Elsewhere in the U.S., Mourvèdre has made inroads from Washington to Texas. In the Pacific Northwest, Syncline Wine Cellars creates near-100% expressions, while in the Southwest, William Chris Vineyards crafts a varietal bottling sourced from the Texas High Plains.