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Justin Mourvedre 2001
Paso Robles has made a name for itself as a source of supple, fruity, and powerful wines. With 11 smaller sub-AVAs, there is quite a bit of diversity to be found in this inland portion of California’s Central Coast.
This is mostly red wine country, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel standing out as the star performers. Other popular varieties include Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, and Rhône varieties both red and white. There is a fairly uniform tendency here towards wines that are unapologetically bold and opulently fruity, albeit with a surprising amount of acidity thanks to the region’s chilly nighttime temperatures.
Never lacking in color, tannin, or bold, mouth-filling texture, Mourvèdre is most commonly deployed to provide substance in blends with Grenache and Syrah/Shiraz. Despite being better known by its French name, Mourvèdre is actually of Spanish provenance, originally known as Monastrell. In Spain, it is one of the most commonly planted red grapes, serving as the principal variety in regions such as Alicante, Jumilla, and Yecla. It truly thrives, however, in Provence’s Bandol region, where it produces singular red and rosé wines along with Grenache and [Cinsault]. It is also of great importance in the Southern Rhône alongside Grenache and Syrah—and in California and Australia, where those blends are frequently mimicked.
In the Glass
Mourvèdre/Monastrell is responsible for robust, heady wines with dark berry fruit and a somewhat gamey quality. At its finest, it takes on brambly red and black fruit flavors and hints of herbs, leather, dark chocolate, and licorice. It can be prohibitively tannic in its youth, but well-aged examples can show an impressive degree of elegance and an attractive perfume. In blends with Grenache and Syrah, Mourvèdre provides fleshy texture, tannic structure, and deep color.
This earthy Mediterranean variety loves rustic food—think cassoulet, wild boar ragu, or smoky ribs. Mourvèdre’s tannins are bold but not bitter, lending the wine the weight and texture it needs to pair with such hearty fare.
Mourvèdre used to have significant plantings in California, but it was unfashionable and its presence was quickly declining in the late 20th century. In the 1980s, a group of California winemakers inspired by the wines of the Rhône Valley (aptly named the Rhône Rangers) brought the variety back into the spotlight. Plantings have since increased and “GSM” blends are now a highly-regarded specialty of the Central Coast.