This heat-loving, late-ripening grape adds color and complexity, but it’s hard to find on its own.
THE BIG, BRUTISH red of the southern Rhône is no doubt mourvèdre, a grape that loves hot weather, ripens late and has found a home in Washington’s Columbia Valley, where blue skies are plentiful and triple-digit temperatures rule July.
Mourvèdre could be likened to cabernet sauvignon, as it adds weight to the wines in which it is blended, along with color and complexity.
It’s still a minor-league player in Washington, however, with slightly more than 1,000 tons harvested each year out of the 270,000-ton overall harvest. Much of that makes its way into so-called GSM blends (mourvèdre is the “M,” along with syrah and grenache). Because of its scarce plantings, single-variety bottles of mourvèdre are somewhat rare.
Three Washington mourvèdres to try
Usually part of a GSM blend, a stand-alone mourvèdre can be difficult to find. Ask your favorite wine shop, or call the wineries directly.
Burnt Bridge Cellars 2014 Seven Hills Vineyard Mourvèdre, Walla Walla Valley, $30: Pulling mourvèdre from one of the top vineyards in Walla Walla, this Vancouver winery has crafted a superb red with aromas of black cherry, blueberry, bittersweet chocolate and white pepper, followed by flavors of ripe plum, blueberry and black pepper.
Forsyth Brio 2012 Kiona Vineyard Mourvèdre, Red Mountain, $35: Yakima Valley winemaking veteran David Forsyth makes this classic, with dark, sultry tones that include savory hints of roasted game meat and black olives, accented by dark, ripe flavors of blackberry, blueberry and pomegranate. It’s all backed by voluptuous tannins and a hint of sage typical of Red Mountain wines.
Palencia Wine Co. 2014 Mourvèdre, Yakima Valley, $30: Aromas of blueberry, white pepper and plum lead to sturdy flavors of huckleberry and dark chocolate. It has a foundation of reasonable tannins and earthy notes of red plum, with hints of dusty sage on the finish.
Mourvèdre originates in Spain, where it goes by the names monastrell and mataro. In France, it grows best in the southern Rhône Valley, particularly around the city of Avignon in Provence. French winemakers use it for flavorful rosés — some of the best in the world.
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It arrived in the New World a century ago, landing first in California. It came to Washington in the past two decades as part of the Rhône revolution that has overtaken much of the wine scene. As a result of its place in GSM blends, mourvèdre now plays a role in some of the most interesting wines made in Washington.
Mourvèdre loves heat and is slow to ripen, so warm areas such as Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills are where it thrives in Washington. It tends to drive growers crazy, as they’ll have everything else picked in their vineyard but then might have to wait a couple of weeks to pull the mourvèdre after it fully ripens.
Like other Rhône reds, mourvèdre adds character to a cellar and is interesting for Washington wineries to make.