Earthy, muddy, murky, funky. These are the words I think of when I think of Mourvedre and the qualities that endear the variety to me. Even in its rosé form, there’s something rustic, even animalistic, about it.
As my winemaking friend Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines notes, “Warner always produces a darker, more brooding style of Mourvèdre…this ‘funks’ the wine up a bit and gives it spice and structure.”
And yet my winemaking friend Steve Grower from Crux Winery said, “I’ve been tempted to say ‘Mourvedre has a je ne sais quoi‘ to avoid having to actually describe it.”
Indeed to pin Mourvedre down to a single style — well you shouldn’t tame a wild thing I suppose. All I can say as an introduction to this Mourvedre based on my experiences…
Now for something completely different…
I was extremely excited when I opened my package from Stinson Vineyard to find a rosé of Mourvèdre. Ever since I’ve tasted the version created by Larry Schaffer of Tercero in Santa Barbara, California, I’ve been in love with this kind of wine innovation. A rustic red turned rosé? Yes please. But to taste something from the other side of the country, from White Hall, Virginia, was to taste something completely different.
Mourvèdre is a funny grape. It thrives in warm weather, is a late bloomer and, thus, is usually the last variety picked in the vineyard (and is often the bane of a grape grower’s existence). What’s more, the grape clusters are quite compact, making it more susceptible to disease and mildew. But it’s these somewhat frustrating qualities that give the Mourvèdre wine its signature tastes and textures: high alcohol and high tannins. Wonky and somewhat imbalanced on its own, Mourvèdre tends to serve best as a blending ingredient (most notably as the M in Rhone-inspired GSM blends). But every once in awhile, if the weather and the harvest are just right, vintners can craft a Mourvèdre that can stand on its own.
As a vintner, when you find a vineyard site you love, it’s truly something special. You come to know the lay of the land, the quality of the fruit, and can taste — even at bud break — the potential for the wine you want to create. As a vintner, when you find a vineyard site you love, you’ll do everything in your power to keep the relationship with the landowner, ensuring that year after year you can keep on creating. As a vintner, when you find a vineyard site you love and the landowner decides to sell — this can be a tragic change of events. Unless you decide to purchase it. Which is exactly what Andrew Tow did.
I only recently enjoyed my first single-varietal bottling of Mourvèdre, so was excited to hear when Larry, owner and winemaker of Tercero Wines, released his 2016 Mourvèdre Rosé. It’s certainly not something I’ve seen before, but Larry’s been playing with this style of rosé since 2012. It’s an interesting texture and flavor profile — versatile enough to stand on its own or pair with food (see Larry’s recommendations below) — and Tercero Wines Mourvèdre Rosé is certainly unlike any other “pink” wine I’ve had before.