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The Monastrell Grape

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About Monastrell

(Synonyms: Alcayata, Alicante, Damas Noir, Esparte, Mataró, Monastre, Monastrell, Motaro, Mourvèdre, Mourves, Negria, Pinot Fleri, Torrentes, Trinchiera.)


Map showing Spanish wine regions

Monastrell—also commonly known as Mourvèdre and Mataró—is a red-wine grape most likely originating in Spain, where it is still very widely grown, but also now planted and vinified pretty much throughout the wine-producing world. It was commonly used as a major ingredient of certain blended reds, but is increasingly being bottled as a premium monovarietal.

The wines can vary a lot, depending on vineyard location and winemaker style, but the common elements are high acids and tannins over surprisingly soft flavors of red fruit (strawberry, raspberry, cherry); especially when young, it can also exhibit so-called "earthy" overtones (sometimes called, by those who fancy them less, "barnyard" qualities). When not so well grown as it might be, its wines can show pronounced (many would say excessive) jam-like or herbaceous qualities, qualities that are good in moderation but not in excess.

The name by which the grape and its wines is called is chiefly regional: Monastrell in Spain (which produces the largest quantity; Mourvèdre in France (where it is an important grape in Rhône blends); and Mataro in Australia (and often in the U.S. as well, where it is also widely called Mourvèdre). But the careful buyer will also discover Monastrell hiding under several regional blend names, in which blends it is often either the sole or dominating grape; in Spain, those include the appellations of Alicante, Almansa, Jumilla, Valencia, and Yecla. In France, many Rhône reds include significant amounts of Mourvèdre; reds of the Bandol appellation must be at least 50% Mourvèdre. A common blend will feature Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (the so-called "GSM" blends, in which the Mourvèdre notably contributes color, fruitiness, and some tannins). When grown in the U.S., as it is from California up through Washington State, it produces wines with somewhat less tannin and a smoke/spice/game quality overlaying a cherry-like fruit nature.

Monastrell does not seem to take to oak as much as many comparable red wines, and so is commonly vinified in neutral or large barrels.

Factoid: Monastrell is thought by some to have been introduced into the Iberian peninsula by Phoenician traders as early as half a millennium BC.

Some Descriptions of Monastrell Wines

Some Monastrells to Try

(About this list.)

We would have liked to include some Bandol Mourvèdres, but all of them seem well out of our selected price range ($20 or less), as do most or all worthy New World specimens. What we do have is a round of well-thought-of Spanish Monastrells, all excellent values.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
El Sequé Alicante
(Alicante, Spain; 10% Syrah.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Opaque violet color. Enticing aromas of cherry-cola, black raspberry, potpourri and Asian spices. Very ripe but fresh and energetic, with excellent clarity to its sweet dark berry and spice flavors. Juicy, penetrating and long on the finish, with the spice and floral notes echoing. 91 points. [International Wine Cellar]

Minerally blackberry aromas announce a tannic, firm palate. Flavors of dark, herbal berry fruits are earthy and stony, while a peppery, lightly herbal finish is solid and structured. This value-priced Monastrell-Syrah blend is fresh and well made. 88 points.

El Sequé…is one the best Monastrell wines made in Spain: powerful and fully ripened, reflecting the climate conditions in the area, but offering a balsamic tone that brings freshness. Aging is done in 500-litre barrels, which suit the lower tannin levels found in Mediterranean varieties.

The 2010 El Seque is pure Monastrell from a selection of old vines (around 60-years-old) and is a more serious proposition. The palate has a spicy, hickory and balsamic entry with crisp tannins and a very well-defined, focused finish displaying a hint of white pepper in the mouth. This is an excellent Monastrell. 90 points. [Wine Advocate, October 2012]

This purple-tinted Monastrell offers ripe yet cool aromas of blackberry and cola that run smooth and long. A deep, bright, juicy palate is weighty but balanced. Dark berry flavors are lightly toasted with fine oak, while the finish is bold and fruity. 91 points.

Smoke and licorice notes frame black cherry, herbal and espresso flavors in this lively red. Features firm tannins and a juicy finish. [Wine Spectator]

Bodegas Volver "Tarima Hill" Monastrell
(Alicante, Spain.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
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• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

A blockbuster of a wine offering a tremendous amount of tasty fruit and earthy supporting components. Gets a little fakey grapey at times, and the 15% abv shows itself at points. But my goodness - can you complain in the $8-$9 range? Silly value here. Silly. 89 points.

This was the best wine by far enjoyed Christmas Eve. .  Bodegas Volver “Tarima Hill” Monastrell is garnet red in color, with a lively bouquet of ripe cherry, blackberry, raisin and pipe tobacco, accented by a light floral note. The intense, full-bodied palate shows concentrated layers of red berry, dark chocolate, and is complimented by both finely-tuned tannins and balanced acidity. This is a $20 wine that tastes like a $50 wine and the notes say you can drink it for the next 10 years.

♣ International Wine Cellar (November 2011), 90 points.

♣ Wine Advocate (October 2012), 93 points.

The opaque purple-colored 2010 Tarima Hill exhibits notes of chocolate fudge, pen ink, graphite, blueberries and blackberries. This full-bodied, 100% Monastrell should drink well for a decade or more. These amazing efforts taste more like they should cost $30 to $50 as opposed to the mid-teens. . . These cuvees come from the winery's oldest vines (20 acres of ungrafted vines that were planted in 1935) planted on the highest elevations.

Bright ruby. A highly perfumed nose displays cherry, raspberry, pipe tobacco and Asian spices. Juicy and precise on the palate, with very good depth to its sweet red berry, bitter cherry and spice flavors. Fine-grained tannins add shape and grip to a long, silky and alluringly sweet finish. This is one of the best values in red wine that I've tasted in a long time.

This is Monastrell from the Alicante region of Spain, and it’s some of the best Monastrell I’ve tried for this price. Nose is spicy, with hints of tobacco and on the palate the wine is luscious with dark fruit, blackberry, plum, a little earth and leather. The finish is why I like Monstrell; it’s spicy and complete. The all around balance and execution of this wine is top notch and you’d be hard pressed to find many bottles of this caliber in this price range. For that reason, I’m naming it to the Bronze Rated and Value Pick lists. This is a real winner (and it scored 93 points from Wine Advocate if you’re a points person).

Concentrated aromas of earthy black fruits and cola come with a slight burn. The aggressive, full-force palate feels grating and gritty but tastes good and smoky, with cherry and berry fruit topped off with oak and mint. It’s a bit high in acid, which creates a tangy sensation on the finish. 87 points.

Deep purple/red color. Nose of mint, coffee, chocolate, smoke and anise. On the palate lots of ripe raspberry/cherry/blackberry fruit. Nothing outrageously complex but very nice for $13.

Crafted from Monastrell vines (same grape as the French Mourvèdre) that range from 40-75 years old, this exceptional value from Spain brings some serious black fruit, svelte tannin, stellar spice, and a medium to fuller body profile. Downright delicious from start to well-honed finish, the Bodegas Volver "Tarima Hill" is perfect for pairing with a variety of grilled favorites, lamb shawarma, or meat empanadas.

Full-bodied and fruit-forward with blackberry/blueberry notes as well as tasting a bit juicy. Behind the fruit there are faint hints of perfume and orange zest as well as an underlying smell of gravel. Overall the wine has a large profile.

Inky dark purple with red-violet highlights, aromas of ripe cherry, sweet vanilla and warm summer woods radiated from the glass. Lush blackcurrant and baked cherry flavours were joined by hints of anise in the full body. Spicy black pepper and cinnamon energised raisin along with traces of caramel in the refined, moderate finish. Enthusiastically swelling with jammy fruit, spice and herbal elements, each velvety sip will keep you reaching for more.

Hewitson "Baby Bush" Mourvedre
(Barossa Valley, Australia.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

"Cuttings taken form the 1853 Old Garden plantings, hence the name. This is an alluringly youthful rendition with blue and red fruits intermingled with wild herbs; dark, stony notes; earth and subtly brooding spices. The palate has a tarry, dark-cherry flavor with some peppery moments. The tannins are nutty and ripe. Smooth-textured. Finishes with innate balance. 94 points. [James Suckling]

Medium to deep garnet colored with a hint of purple, the 2011 Baby Bush Mourvedre is scented of ripe blackberries and plums with underlying suggestions of loam, tar, black pepper and chargrilled meat. Medium-bodied, it gives a good amount of muscular fruit framed by crisp acid and a medium level of chewy, slightly astringent tannins, finishing long with a faint herbal lift. 86 points. [Wine Advocate
No mistaking its appeal. Berried flavour, complexing notes of tobacco leaf and leather, a general savoury/earthy/spiciness and the sweetness of fruit to keep you tipping back for more. Integrated tannin. More or less unresolved on the finish but time will take care of that. [James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion]

The result, in the cool 2011 vintage, is completely intoxicating. An honest take on Mourvedre's tension between frunk and brilliance, aone side of this wine is blood and iron, the other side is a fresh cranberry crush of flavor. The only sign of the youth of the wine is a steeliness in the tannins, if you can stand to quibble with such a delicious, bright and spicy red. 93 points. [Wine & Spirits]

Smells leathery and savory, then folds in ripe, plummy fruit on the mouthfilling palate. Finishes supple and softly dusty. 89 points.

Cuttings for this are taken from the 1853 Old Garden bush-vines (hence the name). An alluringly youthful wine with blue and red fruits intermingled with wild herbs, dark stony notes, earth and brooding spice. The palate has a tarry dark cherry flavour and peppery hints, and the tannins are nutty and ripe – all smoothly textured and finishing with innate balance. 93 points. [Decanter]

Vinos Sin Ley "M" Old Vines Monastrell
(Spain; exact appellation may vary by vintage year. The "M" is typically followed by a numeral signifying that year, as "M11" for 2011 or "M9" for 2009.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
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• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Vinos Sin-Ley Monastrells can be confusing: the widely available bottling is usually called just "M" (and has a big letter M on the label), and the importer's web site does not distinguish further; but one sees references to "M1", "M2", and so on up to "M5" (and they have different, distinctive labels). It appears that those numberings refer to the region of origin of the grapes used (M1, Valencia; M2, Alicante; M3, La Mancha; M4, Bullas; M5, Yecla). The variety normally on offer is from Yecla, but there is also a bottling expressly labelled "M5". The citations below all refer to either the widely available "M" (no numeral) bottling or the Yecla M5 bottling (which should be identical or very close to it). Also, retailers and reviewers often tag the wine name with "Old Vines", though that does not show on (at least) the front label, and probably applies to all their bottlings.

Dark red-violet in colour after aerating aromas of blueberries, dried herbs and hints of toasted oak rose from the glass. Cherry and blueberry flavours were supported by traces of rich leather and clove elements in the medium body. Spicy white pepper, bitter dark chocolate and sweet raisin notes comprised the moderate finish. Straightforward and easy drinking, this is a pleasant glass that can accompany a wide variety of dishes.

♣ International Wine cellar (date unknown), 90 Points.

♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 92 Points.

Another stunning value from Yecla, the 2011 Vinos Sin Ley Monastrell (100% Mourvedre from organic vineyards) possesses a dense purple color as well as a big, sweet bouquet of blueberries, blackberries, and chalky, earthy soil, and a heady, rich, full-bodied finish. It combines elegance with richness despite the fact that this area is known more for the rusticity of its wines than their finesse.

Deep ruby. Ripe cherry and blackberry scents are lifted by a peppery quality and pick up an exotic sandalwood nuance with air. Bitter cherry and spicecake flavors are sweetened by a subtle mocha quality and lifted by tangy acidity. Smooth and fruit-driven on the finish, which features supple tannins and a late kick of white pepper.

In the glass, this is a lovely deep red/mahogany, with integrated hints of dark purple. The aroma is engaging of dark plums and oak, not pumping out of the glass, but strong and distinct. The palate is where this wine shows the best, bringing a sweet round middle of stewed plums and dark cherry. A little hint of burnt oak. Black tannin finish of moderate length. Three stars out of five.

This region, with its hot summers and long growing season, appears to be uniquely suited to bringing the best out of monastrell. Witness this scrumptious, sturdy sipper from the Vinos Sin-Ley group of winemakers. It has deep, concentrated flavors of blackberries, blueberries and plum, with intriguing savory, smoky, meaty notes. It’s medium- to full-bodied, with chewy tannins.

Dark fruits and raisins were highlighted by gamy and earthy undertones that offered a really smooth entrance on the palate. Dark fruit flavors intensified mid-palate and were rounded out by excellent acidity and soft tannins.

Leathery and deep, this bottling from the emerging Yecla region is packed with pleasing bramble fruit and grippy tannins, and given depth by a bright mineral edge.

From vines 40+ yrs old. 3 months in French oak. “Bright, pure expression of Monastrell.” Very nice. Drinks beautifully. Goes well with slightly spicy food. Clean and long. Great QPR.

Juan Gil "12 Meses" ("Silver Label") Jumilla
(Jumilla, Spain. Let the "Silver Label" be your guide when shopping: they make several levels of "Meses"—"months"— Jumilla.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
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• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Alcohol: 15% (OMG! This is essentially as high as a dessert wine that is fortified with brandy). Color: Warm climate? Check. Richly pigmented grape? Check. This wine was dark ruby, almost violet colored. With 15% alcohol, you can expect that the legs were less elegant and more like big thick tree trunks (my notes actually say “WTF?” about the legs, which took 5 minutes to drip down the glass and were purple). I expected lots of burn down the gullet from the alcohol and lots of fruit flavor from the color. Smell: Monastrell works so well with oak here — fruit and oak aromas blended together to make this a very savory, delicious smelling wine. Coffee, mocha, and vanilla were blended with dark cherry, black plum, blackberry, and violet smells. There was a cassis/blackcurrant note that was pronounced too. Lots going on. Notably, no alcohol burn on the sniff though — a pleasant surprise and a mark of a well-made wine. Taste: A lot going on. Wow this was a fruit bomb! Tons of rhubarb and cinnamon — like a pie. Strawberry, raspberry, or blackberry infused tea popped into my mind because of the fruit and tannin sensation together. There were a ton of coffee and dark chocolate flavors from the oak. Despite the rich fruit, the wine didn’t overpower me. It had a nice amount of mouth-cleaning acid and high tannins which balanced the fruit and alcohol. The flavor went on forever on the finish. It was a whole lotta wine, but very balanced. Drink or Sink?: Drink. Let me clear: this is a BIG ASS WINE. If you like full, rich, big-bodied wines, this is for you. This is not a wine of nuance and delicacy. It kind of lays it all out there — no subtlety but that’s its beauty. A solid, well-made wine, even a few years later.

With aromas of black pepper spice, blackberry, toasted cedar and a hint of being somewhat gamey, this was appearing to be a well-rounded, new red for me. A medium bodied mouth feel supported subtle flavors of dark cherries and plums. Where I was most impressed was how easy drinking this was especially with soft tannins and a finish of cocoa and traces of licorice.

♣ International Wine Cellar (September/October 2012), 89 Points.

Bright ruby. Spice-accented aromas of black raspberry, cherry and licorice, with a peppery topnote. Juicy and precise, with good liveliness to its bitter cherry and dark berry flavors. Finishes on a tangy note, energetic and spicy. This wine offers exceptional value.

Clove, mint, raw oak and black-fruit aromas are forward and scratchy. In the mouth, this is on the syrupy, rich side, while the flavor profile runs sweet, with hints of savory BBQ sauce and resin. A candied tasting finish is short and chunky in feel. 88 points.

Slight sweet vanilla, dark deep fruit, concentrated, a powerful wine, lush and bold. Watch that alcohol as it creeps up on you at 15%.

The Mouvedre or Monastrelll grape is often dismissed as "just a blending varietal", but in Jumilla it's quite capable of making single-varietal wines that are both rich and balanced. The Bodegas Juan Gil 2009 Monastrell has the typical plum, spice and meaty aromas in the nose, with flavors of currant, coffee, cocoa and just a pinch of leather on the lingering finish. This well-priced wine (around $13 a bottle) is the perfect accompaniment to your backyard BBQ, and pairs particularly well with steak.

Monastrell is a thick skinned grape so this wine has a strong tannic structure. I left a bottle open for two days and upon revisiting it was much smoother. This is definitely a wine that would benefit from a few hours in the the decanter. The fruit flavors here are nice, primarily dark plums and blackberries. The four months spent in French and American oak lend a toasty note with hints of vanilla. Given the strong tannins make this wine is best paired with food rather than on its own.

This is a terrific 100% Monastrell with the fruit coming from low yielding (1.8 tons/acre) 40 year old vines in a 700 m high vineyard. It is medium dark ruby garnet in color and exhibits aromas of red berries, toasty oak, earth and herbal aromas. It is full and round on the palate with big hard tannins, prominent oak, and a touch of astringency. Spends 12 months aging in French oak. 91 points.

An intense 100% Monastrell that showcases pepper, leather, ripe fruits and woody aromas. On the palate, present tannins and mouthful. Pair with mushroom wild rice, sausage, pork and medium cheese.

Full, rich and velvety, with a core of sweet, chewy berries and chocolate, this red has a charming candy-store quality that should please a crowd. It pleases me, and I’m not normally into confected styles.

Bodegas Luzón Jumilla Roble
(Jumilla, Spain.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Inky ruby. Seductive aromas of blackberry, cassis, woodsmoke and vanilla. Fleshy, concentrated dark berry flavors coat the palate, with tangy acidity providing shape and lift. An exotic floral pastille note lingers on the long, juicy finish, which features soft tannins and a hint of cracked pepper. 90 points. [International Wine Cellar]

Brilliant purple. Smoky, oak-spiced cherry and blackcurrant aromas are complemented by suggestions of mocha and fresh flowers. Supple and sweet on the palate, offering dark fruit liqueur flavors and bitter chocolate and vanilla nuances. The long, nicely tactile, focused finish shows very good lift and dusty, gripping tannins. This wine was aged for four months in new and used French and American oak barrels. [Vinous]

This delicious wine is a blend of Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. It is sourced from old low yielding vines (1.6 tons/acre). Rich and concentrated, it offers ripe huckleberry, blueberry and cassis flavors with toasted oak and spice notes. It has soft round tannins and a long finish. Great value. 89 points.

Cherry, licorice and tobacco notes are fresh and focused in this balanced red. Light, firm tannins provide enough structure for food, and the finish is lively. [Wine Spectator, November 2009]

Nice - medium body and fruit. It is fairly well balanced, with good fruit. This wine seems better when drunk young!

Color: Dark, dark purple. Squid ink with some clouds. The concentration of flavors is definitely evident in the color. Keep away from light carpeting at all costs. Nose: Deep dark fruits: Raisins, prunes, dark stewed cherries with a bit of cinnamon and some clove. Flavor: Cassis has arrived! This is a flavor we have not mentioned much (mostly because it rarely comes to mind). Cassis is basically blackcurrant, but with a bit more concentration of flavor and a touch of alcohol thrown in. The prunes have turned back to plums but the raisins remain. The tannins are firm but not pronounced, making the finish on this wine absolutely delectable. The spice is back as well, along with some toast and vanilla oak from the French and American barrels. This wine was made with extreme skill and care.

For a Splurge

This isn't the very highest-rated Monastrell, but it's fairly close and lots more price-reasonable than those a mere one point higher in average ratings. It is the Bodegas El Nido "Clio" Jumilla.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.





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