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How to Get Out of Your Wine List Rut

A glass of Mourvèdre
A glass of Mourvèdre
Laurie Jervis

When we're talking wine, trends don't hold as much weight as your own palate. Because if one wine appeals, but another doesn't, then your preference - be it a single varietal or blend - is the new best thing. Next time you dine out, check the wine list for wines included under "alternative" whites or reds: Therein lies the trend.

Take Chenin Blanc. This white grape showcases variances in global terroir (South Africa versus France, for example) and is bright and acidic in the mouth, either as a blend component or a single varietal. In California, the majority of Chenin Blanc grapes are grown in larger vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley - those that farm grapes destined for mass-produced table wines. However, owners of Central Coast vineyards containing some Chenin Blanc acreage have enjoyed a resurgence in demand for the grape varietal as consumers diversity from Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. 

The red grape varietal Mourvèdre, also known as Mataró (Australia) or Monastrell (Spain), is another example of one that has evolved from its role in blends - it's the M in GSM, the classic Rhone blend with grenache and syrah - into use as a single varietal respected on its own.

While Spain boasts the world's highest vineyard acreage of Monastrell, the Bandol region of Provence, France, produces some of the world's most esteemed rosés with Monastrell.

Winemakers and wine drinkers often favor Mourvèdre's earthy, peppery and leathery essence, making the wine a versatile choice by the glass and solid match for charcuterie, grilled pork and lamb.

Mark Cargasacchi, owner and winemaker for Jalama Wines in Lompoc, produces both a single Mourvèdre and combines it with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah for a beefy, Southern Rhone-Bordeaux fusion.

"I love Mourvèdre; it has such a unique flavor profile. We started using Mourvèdre almost 10 years ago for our signature red blend," says Cargasacchi. After a few vintages, "I realized that it was a varietal that should have a bottling of its own."

Like hearty Bordeaux reds, Mourvèdre grapes require consistent late-season warmth before they reach optimal maturity. Mourvèdre thrives in the eastern Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, as well as in Paso Robles.

The extended "hang time" for Mourvèdre results in a wine high in tannins, but with just moderate acidity.


Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via winecountrywriter@gmail.com.