Week 32 – Mourvèdre

We tasted: Domain Bunan Bandol, M&S, £11.32 (down from £17)

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “This heatwave in the UK has brought with it many uncomfortable experiences. Oven like conditions on the Jubilee Line, muggy offices where everyone is fighting over a USB powered portable fan, and not to mention the restless nights without air con or breezes. We just aren’t hardwired for heat in this little island.

I can now add to that list the need to taste Mourvèdre on a hot sweaty night. I arrived home off the heated pavements just swooning for a glass of something chilled and white. But no, I devised this dastardly 52 Grapes schedule so I really must drink this 14.5% alcohol beast of a red. So here goes.

Mourvèdre actually loves heat, as grapes go. Winemakers use it in a blend because it retains a good amount of acidity in heat. That is difficult in warm climates because as the grape accumulates sugar it loses acidity. On the first aroma this is definitely a ripe red, full of brooding dark fruits with a spicy and earthy edge, exactly what I expect from Mourvèdre. The fruit is plummy and sweet with a gentle perfume of fresh beetroot. To taste it is really a mouthful, the feeling is grippy but not astringent and it sits heavily on the palate with that warming alcohol really hitting at the back of the mouth. The fruit flavours are dense and there is this sort of earthy clay taste with gives it a distinct savoury expression. I also get that herbal undertone that is typical of Southern french wines a bit like dried herbs in a pasta sauce. I can really appreciate how complex this wine is, even if it wasn’t what I was feeling like drinking today.  I almost feel a little sad that I’m not sitting by a camp fire chilling in a typically cool English summer evening. This would have been the ultimate wine for that occasion.

So in summary if you love heavy, full bodied reds and haven’t tried Mourvèdre, in particular a Bandol, then please do. This is a wine that may tick all your boxes. I might have to buy another bottle and keep it for when the winter sets in.”

Andy says: “You might have noticed that our notes and pages have been appearing later and later. That’s mostly due to my addiction to Softball and playing Mon/Tue/Wed for the last 10 weeks or so.

That has severely eaten into the time available to keep things up to date. It was the same again this week, as I arrived home at around 10pm (early, actually), hot, tired, sweaty, and needing to taste a Mourvèdre. The first thing I noticed as I poured it was the lovely deep purple ink colour of the wine. I gave it a sniff (it’s what you do) and said it smelt smokey. ‘Not really’, said Emma, who then sniffed it and said ‘actually, yeah it does’. Master of Wine nil, sweaty bloke one.

‘Earthy, smokey richness’ was my next phrase, which scored big points as apparently ‘earthy’ is the classic description, and one I see Emma used. I promise I hadn’t read her notes this time. There was also a touch of ‘farmyard’ to it. If you’ve ever walked through a muddy field of cows, or a barnyard, you’ll know the smell I mean. Not as strong and vomit inducing as the real life smell, obviously, just that hint of countryside. It’s known as brett, and at the right level can add an extra dimension to the wine, which it did here. The tannins were tight and grippy, but let go immediately.”

Buying Guide

Mourvèdre (aka Monastrell in Spain) is a grape variety most commonly used as a small part of a blend. We will be seeking out a Bandol from the South of France where this grape is used as the dominant grape in their styles. Any Monastrell from Spain would equally work well.

6 thoughts to “Week 32 – Mourvèdre”

  1. First of all a confession. I drank this at a get together with family. We studiously decanted it in advance and got everything ready to taste with dinner. However, we then got a little bit carried away with aperitifs and when we eventually came to taste it we were, let’s say, perhaps not as sensible as we might have been.

    The wine was La Bastide Blanche Bandol 2015 (Waitrose Cellar, £14.79, 14.5%). In appearance it was an inky, dark purple that light could barely penetrate.

    “Brooding” is the word for the nose. (“Garrigue” is also a fancy word I’ve just discovered that would also do the trick.) It made me think of a deep, dark forest full of monsters with a strong, funky earthy and herby tone. It wasn’t very fruity but the base was fruit of the forest – dark berries. I think it would benefit from more age to mellow and develop.

    To taste it was a dark monster that needs some game or aged cheese to power up to it (we had measly barbequed lamb kebabs). Dry with masses of body and tannin. Very earthy, farmyardy and herbal with red cherries. Powerful stuff.

    I fear it might have been a too-soon error as I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped. The earthy flavours were interesting and deep but I just didn’t love them enough for them to be so dominant. I think with more age the potential for complexity would have shone through – so I’ll have to try it again.

    1. Hi Will, I love this note. Your family sounds just like mine. And I’ve drinking plenty of beautiful bottles far too late at night when I have little chance of properly remembering them the next day. But on the plus side maybe it helped you deliver one of the best descriptions to date. Mourvedre is definitely a “dark monster”!

  2. Wine – Bandol, Cuvée Classique Domaine Tempier, 2014 (Lea & Sandeman £32)
    Bottle Says – not much

    This was not an easy wine to get hold of; none of my local wine merchants or supermarkets had it in stock, so I had to go a little further afield. That was fine though, because this wine is ridiculously good.

    I couldn’t see the colour, as I was drinking it in the dark listening to the hi-fi, but I’m going to guess that it’s dark red. Initially on the nose, a powerful sniff rewards you with the typical rich, acetone-soaked plums and cherries smell that a lot of my favourite Southern Rhone wines possess, but with the addition of a damp, earthy, leafy quality. If the wine is smelled rather more gingerly, the wine reveals aromas of cassis, tree bark, over-ripe damsons and a really slight floral note of decomposing rose petals.

    Surprisingly, even at 14% there is quite a bit of heat in this wine, which is on a level that I would normally associate with 15-16% beasts from hotter countries. Perhaps this comes from drinking it in the summer; this is a winter wine if ever there was one. But after that initial touch of heat, the flavours start to come through. Liquorice root, black cherries, damp leaves, moss, cherry stones, tarred rope, with a long finish of blackcurrant jam.

    This is a wonderfully challenging, complex, earthy red, that I cannot believe I have never tried before, due to my long-standing love of Southern French reds. This wine is exactly why I signed up to 52Grapes. Cheers.

    1. Hi Jason, I think Andy and I must try a week tasting in the dark whilst listening to music, I like the idea of that mixed sensory experience. And really happy that you are finding this adventure worthwhile. That is great motivation to help us keep going too…

  3. Domain Bunan Bandol
    This is the wine for me ! Fruity, earthy, full of flavour, and it would go so well with a stew, casserole or a bolognese
    A wonderful fruity aroma and a slight hint of herbs

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