By Paul Caputo

Mourvèdre is a fascinating red grape variety. In the small appellation of Bandol in the very south of Provence it provides the backbone to some truly fabulous wines. With abundant tannin, body and spice, the wines of Bandol are known for their ability to develop with age, not only softening over time, but also developing an elegance and complexity that is rarely reached with the variety elsewhere. In fact, it is widely acknowledged that Bandol produces the finest expressions of Mourvèdre anywhere in the world. For growers in the area the key to success is Provence’s dry, rocky soils, long sunny growing cycle, and tempering proximity to the Mediterranean Sea.

Generally though the Mourvèdre grape produces robust wines. When young they can be loaded with blackberry fruit character, while showing both aromas of violets and attractive spice, notably pepper and cinnamon. With age, they tend to mature well, showing elegance, but also complex savoury flavours. Such is Mourvèdre’s power, many growers feel that it can overwhelm and so choose to blend with a range of other grape varieties. In Provence, the usual suspects are the region’s traditional red grapes: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Carignan Noir, each offering up something slightly different.

Along the coast and south into Spain, Mourvèdre is known as Monastrell. The vast majority of the world’s plantings are found in the Levante, and it is here where the variety likely originated. There are suggestions that the French name for Mourvèdre is influenced by the town of Murviedro. As it ripens late, the variety requires a hot, dry climate to reach its full potential. Locals believe the grape thrives, particularly in Murcia, and indeed the higher temperatures do seem to create wines that are much softer in youth; but as global warming increases, growers are having to work hard to ensure that Mouvedre’s rich, deep personality does not become overpowering.