Curious Small Sips #3: Monastrell / Mourvèdre aka The Dog-Strangler

In Spain, dark-hearted Monastrell is the fourth most widely planted red wine grape variety and some of the greatest examples can be found in the regions of Alicante, Almansa, Bullas, Jumilla and Yecla. Those south-eastern plains boast a perfect climate for Monastrell’s small, thick berries which love warm, dry weather and lashings of sunshine. The wines made from Monastrell have intense purple hues and high tannin levels and are usually blended to temper this wild nature. Good examples of Spanish Monastrell wines tend to be rich, dark affairs, frequently showing lush flavours of blackberry, plum and black cherry. The variety was hit hard by the phylloxera epidemic of the 1880s, and largely eradicated from some vineyard areas but in recent years it has become popular on the Spanish Levant coastal area.

Monastrell comes from the Latin word Monasteriellu (Monastery) but it is also one of the varieties with the greatest number of synonyms in the Vitis International Variety Catalogue, with more than 100! Known as Mourvèdre in France, it has such recognisable mouth-drying tannins that it earned the nickname Étrangle-Chien (the dog strangler). In France, Mourvèdre is a key variety in Provence and the southern Rhône Valley and is a vital component in Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape blends.

Image: Monastrell grapes and vines in Ego Bodegas vineyards, Jumilla, Spain. © Ego Bodegas.

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