Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Contradictory Mourvèdre Coco Chanel Would Have Loved

Coco Chanel, the legendary French couturier, is reputed to have said "my inner contradictions fascinate me." I think contradictions are a beautiful thing, both in people and in wine. Contradictions in a wine keep your brain cells firing while you're tasting as you try to figure out if you really taste leather and roses at the same time and, if you do, do you like that?

Mourvèdre is a grape that would make Coco Chanel proud. It has dusty and sweet flavors, flower notes, earthy notes--you name it, you can find it in Mourvèdre. It can be hard to find a 100% Mourvèdre, because it's most commonly used in blends with Grenache and Syrah. I happen to love Mourvèdre when it's bottled on its own, however, because all of its seemingly contradictory flavors and aromas can produce wines that please your intellect as well as your palate.

Lately I had the chance to try a 2006 Telmo Rodríguez A1 Muvedre from Spain's Alicante region. ($9.95, Chronicle Wine Cellar; available elsewhere for $10 to $17) This was an excellent QPR example of all of the glorious contradictions of which Mourvèdre is capable. It had Mourvèdre's characteristic deep yet bright garnet color and aromas of blackberry and marshmallow when the bottle first opened. These aromas gave the wine an initial, sweet impression, but the flavors were much leaner than the aromas suggested. While my mouth was set for a fruitbomb, instead I got black fruits, a touch of tar, and a slightly green and stemmy note in the aftertaste followed quickly by catch of rose petals in the back of the throat. The wine felt very satiny as you sipped it, but afterwards the dusty tannins made your mouth feel a bit dry.

Because of the drying tannins, this wine was much better with food than it was without it, and I wanted to find a recipe to try with it that would be just as full of contradictions as the wine. I located a new take on a classic Spanish soup from the Rioja region that used sweet potatoes and linguica instead of the traditional potatoes and chorizo. It was a little sweet, a little salty, a little spicy, and just delicious. The recipe calls for linguica, but I had chorizo on hand and substituted that for the linguica with good results. It was particularly good at pulling out the wine's fruity and satiny features, while the smoky notes of the sausage and the tarry note in the wine were good partners.

I loved this wine, but it will not be to everyone's taste. I am a fan of Telmo Rodriguez's wines in part because he makes such a wide variety of bottlings, from luscious fruity treats to wines like this one that are full of surprises. Even better, as this 2005 article by Food & Wine's Lettie Teague explains, Rodriguez is not ashamed to make value wines. So even if you don't give his Mourvèdre a try, keep on the lookout for the name.



Anonymous said...

I wonder if this one is made from biodynamically grown fruit.

Dr. Debs said...

Jack I couldn't find the answer to your question so far--it wasn't on the label, but that's not always definitive.