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Taming Mourvedre

Villa Creek Mourvedre

Mourvedre is a blending grape because it’s so damn tannic. Google is running a commercial right now about changing a statement to a question mark.  So Mourvedre is a blending grape because its so damn tannic?  The answer from the Russian River Valley and Paso Robles might surprise you.


Video Transcription:

Villa Creek Mourvedre Back LabelHi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So, I’m joined today by, I’ll hold this up so you can see it. So, this is a bottle of Mourvedre. So, if you’re part of our reserved selections point club, you’re gonna get two different Mourvedres in this month’s shipment. If you’re a special selections or any of our other red wine club members, you’ll get likely one. Some of you will end up with two, if I know your preference.

So, Mourvedre. So, it’s a Rhone. So, it’s familiar to a lot of wine drinkers because it’s part of GSM blends, and that’s Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. Often times Grenache is the largest component of those blends, especially in the Rhone Valley, well over 50% in some cases. The vast majority, so, if you’re going to guess what the percentages are in those situations, it’s 60/30/10 on average, I would say. 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre.

Mourvedre is used for two things. So, first, it is pretty darn dark. It’s purple, almost to the point of running black at times. So, that’s part of it. So, that’s to darken the wine. But really, the real reason why winemakers use Mourvedre in these blends is for tannic structure.

So, in California, we have some folks who are looking at the grape and saying, “Look, let’s try,” so in this case, the Front Porch Farm, they have maybe an eighth of an acre, or no, eight tens of an acre, so they get maybe 100 cases or so per vintage. We’re doing another one from Villa Creek down in Paso Robles, and they have a few rows of it that gives them a couple hundred cases only. So, you’re getting folks that are starting to really experiment with it here in California as a varietal specific wine, and that’s so it’s 80% or so of the varietal at least. Most of the folks doing it are all in and doing 100% Mourvedre. In the old world, that’s almost unheard of because they feel like it’s so tannic and so out of control that you can’t actually sell the wine to anybody and it’s just disinteresting, much like Petit Syrah, maybe, would be for other folks, or Petit Verdot if you’re in Bordeaux.

So, how do you bring this grape that’s so tannic that people don’t even think you can make a varietal wine out of it and bring it and kind of walk it back into a reasonable level. So, we’re finding out a few things. So first, much like all quality wine, literally the most important thing is yield in the vineyard. So, if you let the thing grow wild and you get five tons per acre, it’s gonna be terrible. It’s gonna be terribly tannic, you’re not gonna be able to drink it, it’s a blending grape. And that’s okay. But it just is what it is. If you can scale that down to two to three tons per acre, you get something that’s usable.

Secondly, there’s a whole cottage industry in wine where people argue about the use of inoculated fruit versus natural or native yeast, depending on where you sit. We know two things. So, first we know that at the same bricks, i.e., the same amount of sugar, sugar and during fermentation turns into alcohol. If you use native yeast in fermentations, that corresponding alcohol level is lower than if you inoculate. We don’t know why that is. It’s likely that that happens because there are nine to 10 different types of native yeast on every grape skin. So often, what you’ll find if you look at a micrological level, is that you’ll find one yeast starts fermenting, ends its ferment, and is used up, and then the next one takes over, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, until you end up with all the sugar turned into alcohol.

The second thing that you find is that consumers, when you blind taste test this stuff, and we have done this from the same vineyard, one inoculated, one native yeast, people universally almost will tell you that they find the native yeast stuff to be a little bit softer mouth feel. So, for Mourvedre, that’s incredibly, incredibly important because it takes that tannin bite down just a little bit and really what we’re talking about here is this is still gonna be a tannic wine, it’s still gonna be kind of this full mouth feel kind of thing, but how far down the wine can we run it? From, “Hey, we can’t do this by itself,” to Cabernet. How close can we get it?

And we’re not gonna get it all the way there, but from controlling yield, from using native yeast, then there’s a third part, too. Whole cluster fermentation. I’ve got a winemaker friend down in Paso, Anthony Yount, who makes Kinero Cellars, truly one of the great little, small, independent labels. He also makes the wine at Denner, which is a huge kind of well known winery appointment only, join the wine club kind of thing. And he has expressed that he likes a lot of whole cluster in warm vintages, and he likes a lot of whole cluster in cool vintages, and he likes a good amount of whole cluster in normal vintages. And so, one that we do find in whole cluster ferments, especially at lower yields, is that it tends to damper down the tannins again. So, I think it’s an interesting thing when you have a grape where a winemaker sets out and they know what they’re getting at the start, and they know that they need to make every wine making choice that they can to tamper down the tannins, and to get it to the most easily accessible mouthfeel as possible.

And so, I think that’s what we’re finding with Mourvedre. There’s a few names where they’re doing it [inaudible 00:05:34] varietal. I’m excited to ship it as a part of the wine club this month, and I hope that our customers enjoy it. So, that’s a quick update, and if you’re wondering where the heck your shipment is, we’re shipping concurrently. It was a hot summer, and as you know, we had fires in Northern California. It was a hell of a time to do Napa and Sonoma wines the last month or two, so we’re doing a little bit of digging out. And I’m definitely helping as best I can with that.

So, yeah. This is a Front Porch Farm. It’s a Russian River Mourvedre. Quite honestly, there’s so few grapes being grown in the Russian River these days that’s not really Pinot, but either Pinot or Chardonnay is probably 95% of production throughout the Russian River, if not more, so I really, really wanted to support the guys doing something different.

So, once again I’m Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, hope you guys are having a good week so far.

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