Project Mataro

Mourvédre, Mataro, potato, potato. What's in a name? Why in Australia do we see the same grape variety called variously Mataro, Monastrell or Mourvédre?  Why do we rarely see it shine in the spotlight on its own? Rather, we see it reduced to the letter 'M' in one of the many GSM (or variations thereof) blends that Australia does so well. 

It is some of these points, and hopefully more, that I am going to explore. Hopefully I'll prove a good researcher, one of the things I'm keen to establish is a list of 
producers who are, or have, produced a single varietal Mataro. 

Mataro is not a new variety, nor - and a I borrow from Nick Stock here:

"a case of the next big thing, rather it's an ancient beast of a vine that has survived in Australian soil for longer than just about any other grape variety" {Gourmet Traveller Wine June/ July 2011 p95}.

History
Known as Mourvédre in France, Mataro in Australia (although increasingly labelled Mourvédre) and Monastrell in Spain. This is seen as strange {Oz Clarke - Grapes & Wines} as the variety originated in Spain, possibly near either of Murviedro (near Valencia) or Mataro (Cataluña). 

In Spain it gives reds of high alcohol - Mataro is a late ripening varietal and loves the sun - plentiful tannin and somewhat lacking in finesse.  The varietal is better known by its 'French' name of Mourvédre.  It is one of the key varieties in the Southern Rhone, particularly Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and indeed doesn't ripen North of this appellation, struggling sometimes to even do so there.  However 160KMs South-East in Bandol, on the Mediterranean coast where it is some 5*c warmer, the wines from this appellation are dark, with a perfumed core and quite vivid.  Bandol's Rosés - Salmon pink, the best in Provence.  Decanter wine writer Andrew Jefford calls Bandol: "Provence's one true grand cru" and it is considered that Bandol is to Mourvédre what Burgundy is to Pinot Noir {Gourmet Traveller Wine June/ July 2009 pp82-85}.

It is rather a precious grape, it is said to "like it's face in the hot sun and it's feet in the water".  So site selection is key: warm, South facing sites, and preferably limestone and clay soils.  As said, it is also late-ripening so also needs to be in the right hands, needing a confident winemaker who is able to trust to leave the fruit on the vine with sufficient body, but not too long to risk the elements or before it becomes too pruney: "like many talented performers, it shines best in the hands of experienced producers".

In Australia, with the good fortune of having access to some good old vine material, much of it clonal from Spain, the resultant wines are often spicy, earthy, rustic yet rich and very tannic.  Hence it's role as a supporting backbone to the flesh and fruit of Shiraz and Grenache in blends.

My Love for Mataro
I've always had a soft spot for the underdog.  If Riesling is the Wine that everyone loves, but nobody buys then Mataro - and if you haven't guessed by now, this is my preferred name for the grape variety - is the grape that few seem to grow and fewer want to make.  

I started looking for Australian producers of the varietal toward the end of 2010 and at that point had only come across d'Arenberg's 28 Road Mourvédre, Diesen's Mataro and Teusner's Dog Strangler (Estrangle-Chien being another of Mataro's synonyms on account of its tannins). 

So this, Project Mataro, is my way of exploring varietal Mataro, of supporting those who share that love, are confident enough to make wine from it and to bring those wines to a buying public. If it brings a few more producers to some other interested parties, all the better. 

History in Australia
Some of the best old-vine material got pulled in the 80's, along with Grenache and Shiraz. In Len Evans' Complete Book of Australian Wine published in 1984, approximately 1300 hectares of Mataro was planted across Australia. Roll forward 20 or so years and that figure had dropped to approximately 1,000ha, it's nadir 2009 when this figure was 642 hectares. Let's put this in perspective, it's not a piddling amount, but it is when compared to Shiraz - 44,000 hectares - and is for a variety with links to the origins of Australia's grape growing history.

The Future
Plantings of Mataro increased 13% from 2009-2010. Whilst this statistic arrests a decline, it is also potentially worrying - for me - in that it may now be seen as a "fashionable grape". The other worry is that for a vine to truly hit its straps takes a good ten years, I'd hate to start seeing thin and weedy Mataro hit the shelves. 

That said it is great to see it getting it's time in the sun. I leave with yet another quote from Nick Stock:

"it's not a variety that makes obvious wine; it's more cryptic, elusive, soulful and moody. It's survival tactic has basically been to keep its head down and stay out of trouble". 

And that is why I love it.  But now sunshine, it is time to stand up and be counted.

Mataro - Some examples to seek out*

ProducerRegionWine(s)Review(s)
Alex Retief Hilltops, NSWThe Alias Mataro2010
bakkheiaGeographeValley, WAUnited & Undaunted Mourvédre 2010
BallycroftBarossa Valley, SAMataro
Small Berries, VP Mataro
2010
2008
BoireannGranite Belt, QLDMourvédren/a
BremertonLanghorne Creek, SA Mourvédre2007
2008
CaillardBarossa Valley, SAMataro2009
CascabelMcLaren Vale, SAMonastrell2009
Chapel HillMcLaren Vale, SAMourvédre2009
2010
2011
2012
Clarendon HillsMcLaren Vale, SA"Liandra" Mourvédren/a
d'ArenbergMcLaren Vale, SAThe Twenty-Eight Road Mourvédre2004
DeisenBarossa Valley, SAMataro2005
Dodgy BrosMcLaren Vale, SAMataro2013
Ducks in a RowMcLaren Vale, SAErect Habit Mataro
Straight Up Mataro
n/a
2010
Flaxman WinesBarossa Valley, SAMataro2009
2010
GeddesMclaren Vale, SAExperimental Mataro2010
GothamBarossa Valley, SAOld Vine Reserve Mataron/a
GreenstoneHeathcote, VICMonastrell2008
Golden GroveGranite Belt, QLDMourvédre2009
Head in the CloudsMclaren Vale, SASilver Lining Mourvédren/a
HenschkeEden Valley, SAHill of Faith Mataron/a
HewitsonBarossa Valley, SA"Baby Bush" Mourvédre
"Old Garden" Mourvédre

2002
IzwayBarossa Valley, SAMates Mataro
KaeslerBarossa Valley, SAAlte Reben Mataro2008
Kay BrothersMcLaren Vale, SABasket Press Mataron/a
LangmeilBarossa Valley, SAResurrection Mataro2010
MassenaBarossa Valley, SAMataro2010
Murray Street VineyardsBarossa Valley, SAMataro
Black Label Mataro
2004
2010
Muster Wine CoBarossa Valley, SA"M" 2007
Magpie EstateBarossa Valley, SA"The Black Sock" Mourvédren/a
MariusMcLaren Vale, SA"Matarius" Mataron/a
Old Faithful EstateMcLaren Vale, SA"Almond Grove" Mourvédren/a
Pyramids RoadGranite Belt, QLDMourvédre2010
2011
2012
RBJ Barossa Valley, SATheologicum Mataron/a
Rosemount Estate McLaren Vale, SANursery Project Mataron/a
RudderlessMcLaren Vale, SAMataron/a
Rusden Barossa Valley, SAFull Circle Mataro2009
Samuel's GorgeMcLaren Vale, SACapisce Mourvédre
Samuel's Gorge Mourvédre
n/a
Sarsfield EstateGippsland, VICMourvédren/a
ShobbrookBarossa Valley, SANouveau
Ebenezer Mourvédre
2011
n/a
Sieber RoadBarossa Valley, SAMataron/a
Some Young PunksBarossa Valley, SALust Collides Mataron/a
Sons of EdenBarossa Valley, SAStauros Mourvédren/a
Soul GrowersBarossa ValleyDefiant Mataron/a
Springs HillMcLaren Vale, SABlewitt Springs Mourvédren/a
SyrahmiHeathcote, VICMourvédre2010
Tellurian WinesHeathcote, VICMourvédren/a
Terra FelixGoulburn Valley, VICMourvédre2006
2008
Tim SmithBarossa Valley, SAMataro2009
Turkey FlatBarossa Valley, SAMourvédre2010
TorbreckBarossa Valley, SAThe Pictn/a
TeusnerBarossa Valley, SAAstral Series Moppa Mataro
Righteous Mataro
Dog Strangler



2011
2010
2010
2011
TscharkeBarossa Valley, SABarossa Grounds Marananga Mataro2010
WhistlerBarossa Valley, SAEstate Grown Mourvédren/a
Wirra WirraMcLaren Vale, SASparrow's Lodge Mourvédre
Esperanza Monastrell

2010
Woods CramptonBarossa Valley, SAMataro2010
2012
YangarraMcLaren Vale, SAMourvédre2009
2010
Yelland & PappsBarossa Valley, SADivine Mataro2009






* and if anyone reading this knows of others, please feel free to contact me and bring them to my attention.

10 comments:

  1. Great project!

    I'd add:

    - Yangarra Mourvedre
    - Bremerton Mourvedre

    Yangarra in particular (oh and the Samuels Gorge when it is released).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some more Mataro love for you:

    - Soul Growers

    Wining Pom

    ReplyDelete
  3. Haha! I was going to suggest both of those too

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, excellent work Stu. Anything to help highlight Australia's diversity, one of our real strengths, is good in my opinion. :)

    One I've had before that I can't see on your list is the Wirra Wirra Sparrow's Lodge Mourvedre.

    Cheers,
    Chris P

    ReplyDelete
  5. Stu ... enjoyed the read & personally liking the variety more & more. Because you are in Brisbane I can recommend Warren & Sue's latest Mourvedre to you - the Pyramids Road 2010. I noticed Pyramids Road is on your list, but not sure if you have tried the 2010. Wine Experience at Rosalie stocks some of their wines but not sure if they will have this one. I believe that it is currently the best red wine on the Granite Belt. Warren has been getting better & better with the variety and in 2010 he changed his oak treatment with very pleasant results. The wine is still young & hasn't been bottled long so really needs to breathe.

    Another one (a blend) Roger Pike at Marius wines Willunga makes a very good Shiraz/Mataro. For 2010 vintage he will be releasing a straight Mourvedre, but pretty much all sales are to mailing list members and the list is closed ... source one if you can when it's released next year, this guy makes sublime wine.
    Cheers & keep up the good work : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr Pan, just added a review of Warren's 2011. Must say that I am looking forward to the '12, I tasted it in barrel not long after being put there - to me it seemed evident that this should be a cracker.

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  6. Stu,

    When you get a chance drop into a little place called W.A. and try our United and Undaunted 80/20 Mourvedre/Shiraz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michael,

      Will be sure to do just that - thanks for swinging by thevinsomniac.com

      Stu

      Delete
  7. Hi, first time poster. I recently attended the Mclaren Vale wine awards (cartesian) and was blown away by the Rosemount nursery project wines - they have a graciano mataro grenache (2011) and a straight mataro. Have you had the chance to try either? Interested in your thoughts.

    Cheers

    nigel

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    Replies
    1. Hello Nigel,

      Thanks for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. Have not had the pleasure of either. Have heard really good things about the Nursery Project Mataro. It first came to my attention after picking up gold at the Brisbane Wine Show. Certainly one I keep an eye out for.

      Thanks

      Stu

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