Mourvèdre is a dark coloured wine grape variety used for the production of red wines. DNA analysis established that the varieties known as Mataro, Monastrell and Mourvèdre are one and the same thing. The variety, today, is best known under its French name, Mourvèdre. Its parent varieties are unknown.
While Mourvèdre originated in Spain, it was the French who made the wine famous with their high quality Rhone blends. The variety, like many other, seems to have taken its name from the areas it originated, in this case the Spanish cities Mataro near Barcelona and Murviedro near Valencia.
The variety spread to France around the 16th Century and became one of the most popular varieties in the Rhone Valley, until the phylloxera epidemic outbreak in the middle ages. Most of the vines were replaced by Grenache, which at the time was easier to graft on the available phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. Mourvèdre nevertheless continued to flourish in Bandol, a region in the southern Rhone that proved to be less susceptible to phylloxera because of its sandy soils.
The variety is also known as Mataro, Balzac noir, Damas noir, Trinchiera and Monastrell.
Production in South Africa
The variety only seemed to have arrived in South Africa in the late 80s, but it had been promoted by Prof Abraham Izak Perold since the 1920s already because of its abilities to produce good quality wine and withstand warm climatic conditions.
The area under Mourvèdre has greatly increased since the 1990s, when farmers started planting more Mediterranean varieties that are better suited to the warm climatic conditions of South Africa. In 2016, there were just over 470 ha of this variety in the country, representing roughly one percent of the total area under red wine grapes. While the variety is planted in all the production region, except in the Northern Cape, the Swartland and Paarl accounts for more than half of the total area under production.
The variety thrives under warm climatic conditions. It is a vigorous grower with high production potential, ranging between 20 t/ha to 23 t/ha.
It ripens mid-season, from the middle to the end of March.
The variety produces large, round, thick-skinned black berries, with firm green flesh. The berries do not colour at the same tempo, resulting in bunches with different coloured berries at the onset of ripening (veraison).
The leaves have a dark green colour, are medium sized, round and whole to three lobed.
Pests and diseases
The variety is susceptible to downy mildew and powdery mildew.
In South Africa, Mourvèdre is typically used to produce single varietal wines or Rhone-style blends, along with Grenache and or Shiraz.
The variety produces prominent mulberry and blackberry flavours and tones of liquorice, cinnamon and spice.