Published on November 10, 2008
Mourvèdre is a premium wine grape variety of warm climates, but in Australia it is not well known.
It is thought to have originated in Spain, where, called Monastrell, it is the second most important grape variety today.
From the Spanish town of Murviedro near Valencia, Mourvèdre was brought to the Provence in Southern France in the late middle ages, where till the end of the 19th century it became the primary variety. It has been described as “fleshier than Shiraz, tauter than Grenache and Cinsault, and infinitely more charming than Carignan.”

Mourvèdre flowering But with the devastating introduction of the vine aphid Phylloxera into Europe around the 1880s, Mourvèdre all but disappeared. The only way to defeat Phylloxera is to graft vines onto resistant rootstock, and Mourvèdre proved difficult to graft. It had to be replaced by lower quality grapes and only persisted in the sandy soils of Bandol (Provence), where Phylloxera cannot exist.

Eventually more suitable rootstocks were discovered and today it is again an important variety in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. It is made into both red and rosé wines, often blended with Grenache, Shiraz and Cinsault.
In Australia it is grown at Cowra under the name of Balza or Balzac, in the Barossa as Mataro and at Great Western as Esparte. Mourvèdre growing tip

Obviously one would not want to plant a grape from the warmest areas of Europe in the cool Gippsland region, but we obtained the propagation material as “special Shiraz clone” through Nicholson River Winery. The cuttings came from a few very old vines growing near the old Sarsfield Pub.

We planted a small trial block in 1992, but they  proved a disappointment. The vines grew well but tended to alternate cropping, with too many grapes one year and hardly any the next. The wine was quite nice, but had little colour or structure or character, and we gave the grapes away or did other things with them. We tried many different pruning and training methods to improve quality, but only when we realised the true nature of the “special Shiraz” did things improve.
Mourvèdre attains high sugar levels, but ripens rather slowly and is usually the last variety to be picked, often in May. Mourvèdre grapes
In 2004 we used part of the grapes in our Rosé, where they contributed interesting spicy flavours. In the warm 2005 and 2006 seasons we obtained fruit with great depth of flavour and solid structure, and for the interest of it decided to bottle it on its own. The wine produced at Sarsfield is quite different to the Spanish style coming from the warm Barossa and more similar to the French wines, with strong blackberry, spicy, herby notes and softer tannins. Mourvèdre is generally thought to age well, but at this stage we have little experience, and we actually think that this wine is ready for drinking now, and should not be kept for more than one or two years.

Only 500 bottles of the 2005 Mourvèdre and 260 (one barrel) of the 2006 were produced, and it is sold through cellar door and mailing list exclusively.