After a long break, we gathered again on a cold winter evening to taste and celebrate the fine red wine made from Mourvèdre grapes. These grapes are believed to have originated in the Spanish town of Morvedre (now Segunto) near Valencia. They were bought to Provence (France) in the late Middle Ages, where, prior to the invasion, it was the dominant varietal. What invasion do we speak of? The famous phylloxera louse invasion that transformed French wines forever.
In the late 1800, the tiny little louse devil was, unknowingly, bought into Europe by Victorian-era botanists, through American native vines. By 1878, the louse had destroyed 370 000 hectares, while another 251,000 hectares were dying. At that time this represented 25% of French vineyards. By 1895, as the louse marched northwards, it had reduced French wine production by half. The only way to save the vineyards was to graft French grapes onto American root stock that had been successful in their native land at fighting off the louse. By the end of the 19th this hybridisation had solved the devastation. So, yes, the French wine industry was threatened and then saved by America! However, this was problematic for Mourvèdre that did not graft easily onto the existing phylloxera-resistant American rootstock. This meant that it lost popularity in France and was replaced by other varieties.
Today, Mourvèdre is dominant in southern Rhone where it makes an important part of the GSM blend (Grenache, Shiraz Mourvèdre) or Rhone Blends. It is most dominant in the Bandol AOC in France where 50% of all wines must be Mourvèdre. The old French saying goes that, “Mourvèdre needs its head in the sun, its feet in cool soil and a view of the ocean.”
In Spain, Mourvèdre is called Monastrell and is the fourth most widely planted red wine grape variety. In South Africa, the area of Mourvèdre in 2016 was 473ha which is growing steadily. Most of the grapes are found in the Swartland (32%).
If you enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon then Mourvedre is in a similar camp, producing full-bodied, highly-tannic and rustic wines which have flavours of blueberry, blackberry, plum, black pepper, violet, rose, smoke, gravel and meat. I can’t say that any one of us gurus found all those flavours exactly but we did enjoy this lovely, winter red liquid. It has become my winter wine of 2022 and is lovely enjoyed in front of a warm fire. Remember it is best enjoyed decanted or open for a bit to let it air. Its not easy to locate but I highly recommend making the effort.
What did we taste?
2021 Swartland Winery Mourvèdre Limited Release, R75
NV Caravel Wines The Liquid Sword R 150,00 Breedekloof (2020 and 2019 vintage)
2017 Joostenberg Mourvèdre, R195, Paarl
2019 Saronsberg Mourvèdre R230, Tulbagh
2018 Waterkloof Mourvèdre Circumstance R225, Stellenbosch
And then just to keep things interesting, we included a Cabernet Sauvignon to check if any of us could pick it out in a line up.
2019 Arendsig Cabernet Sauvignon Blok A9, R185 Bonnievale
As usual, our resident statistician removed the highest and the lowest to give us the rankings:
And the winner was Joostenberg, closely followed by the Liquid Sword and Swartland. We do love that Joostenberg label and is definitely built to last. Not surprisingly, only the show off, Master Value, was able to pick out the Cab Sav which we thought was just a huge fluke!
As mentioned, locating these special wines is not that easy. I highly recommend my favourite online shop, the winecellar which has made many monies off me because of their amazing range of local and international wines and also their great filter options and website organisation.
The Liquid Sword definitely gets a big shout out for the coolest label on any wine that I have seen to date. This wine is hard to locate and sells out quickly which is understandable given the price and quality. Double bonus is that if you buy a case, you get 6 different kung-fu style wine labels. This is my type of wine! My perfect weapon of choice to arm oneself through a boring party, family gathering or just a long cold, winter evening. Get yourself a liquid sword this winter before they sell out!
Life in a forest in the mountains