Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lusty Punks & The Letter "M" - WBW69

It's time for the 69th edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday ("WBW") and I'm stretching a bit to get my submission all prepped in time. The last couple of weeks has been a bit of a whirlwind of activity. Having attended two dinner parties, a winemaker's dinner, the big Chefs For Life fundraising dinner, two Canuck playoff hockey games, two wine tasting events and the Bocuse d'Or fundraiser, Hot Chefs Cool Jazz, I feel like I'm a taking a run at supplanting CBC's local radio gadfly about town, Fred Lee. To paraphrase Fred (now, feel the squeal), it's been a run of extreme "Gala-Gala Do'ing."

In order to meet today's deadline, I'm going to have to jump over the last week's additions to this blog's List. I'll come back to them, but there'll have to be a temporary gap from #439 to #455 until I can get back on track.

It's a good thing that I'd turned my mind, awhile ago, to this month's WBW topic because it's not one that I could just grab a bottle from the cellar and run with. Richard Auffrey, who blogs The Passionate Foodie, has offered up the topic of the "dog strangler" grape - Mourvedre. While asking everyone to "drink a wine that contains 50% or more Mourvedre, whether a Red, Rose or Dessert wine," he has, however, requested that participants "please don't really strangle any dogs." Who knows, non-compliance may see Pamela Anderson and PETA arriving on your doorstep - now that she's been voted off of Dancing With The Stars. There might be worse things in life. You could promise to never do it again and have a make-up session (with wine, naturally).

When I was wandering around the internet, after Googling "Mourvedre," I found that much of the same information was showing up site after site. I'm guessing that most of that basic knowledge is going to show up on a number of WBW69 entries. So, hopefully without sounding the same as every other blogger, I'm going to set out some of the facts that I found to be the most interesting. A Letterman Top 10 list might be a tad long, so let's go with a Fab 5.

1) Following WBW69, everyone will likely know that our varietal-du-jour is known equally as Mourvedre, Monastrell and Mataro - largely dependent upon where the wine is being made. What I like is that Wikipedia lists over 60 names for the varietal - my faves being Drug, Estrangle-Chien (hence our host's reference to dog strangling), Bod and English Colossal. I'm particularly intrigued by "English Colossal." Like, what prompted that? I couldn't find anything further by Googling "English Colossal," but I'd love to go into a bar and order a glass - just to see what I actually end up with. Perchance, they'd return with a glass of English rugby superstar, Ben Cohen.

2) I found it interesting that, at the time the phylloxera invasion hit European vineyards in the 1860's, the varietal was nearly driven to extinction. Unlike many of the other major varietals, Mourvedre was not as easily grafted to existing rootstocks. It wasn't until after WWII that a compatible rootstock was developed. If the varietal hadn't survived in the sandy soils of Bandol (that weren't affected by the phylloxera louse), we might not be having this WBW theme.

3) Many will know that the primary regions growing the varietal are France (Mourvedre), Spain (Monastrell), Australia and California (Mataro or Mourvedre). I like the fact that it is also grown in intriguing areas like Algeria, Tunisia and Azerbaijan. I rather doubt that I'll find a wine produced from those countries in our market, but wouldn't that be a novel tasting.

4) Our own BC market is definitely not a hot bed for growing Mourvedre - most likely because the grape likes warm climate, is late-ripening and is known for irregular yields. The vines can have a good yield one year only to be followed by a poor one the next year. None of those characteristics is likely to endear the varietal to a vineyard owner looking to plant vines on expensive land in a cooler climate. I saw, however that at least a couple of BC wineries are going to experiment with a few test plantings. Road 13 has specifically stated that they feel that the changing climate trends are making it possible to ripen the grape in the Southern Okanagan. We also found out that Red Rooster had gotten their hands on some Mourvedre when we were up there in the Spring. Maybe we could market the grape as English Colossal or Bod and create a real buzz. "A buzz from BC Bod" - try and get that one past the marketing powers or the RCMP.

5) I should think that most markets are like Vancouver where the majority of bottle shops invariably offer Mourvedre in blended wines, as opposed to straight varietal wines. I love Rhone blends and that includes the Aussie moniker of GSM (for Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre/Mataro). Dependant on blend percentages, I'll see a number of SGM blends in town as well. But, I wonder why I've never seen a bottle of MSG on the shelves though?

Rather than go with a blend, I preferred to stick with a straight varietal for this WBW but I don't think I saw more than a dozen available around town - and, on the whole, they weren't bargain priced. There's Castano Hecula from Yecla (love saying that) that comes in under $15 and I bought a bottle - but, I forgot and left it at work and it'll have to wait for another night. Otherwise, prices started climbing. Due to the importance of the event, I decided to splurge on two bottles though.

453. 2008 Some Young Punks - Lust Collides - Mataro (McLaren Vale - Australia)

I've occasionally seen the wild and crazy labels from Some Young Punks in our market for a couple years now but this is the first bottle that I've opened by this South Australian threesome. Wouldn't you know that it's probably the tamest of all the labels they produce. Known first and foremost for their standout packaging that features buxom beauties, monsters, pulp fiction and comic books, I was hoping that the wine would live up to the $45 price tag. Since their first vintage in 2005, the Punks claim to be striving to "make exceptional wine with small estate charm" and they know that their irreverence with labels and names may get a prospective buyer to pick up the bottle but that the wine inside has to deliver in order to bring that buyer back.

The winery has other blends that feature Mataro but Lust Collides is one of the winery's higher end single varietal wines. The single varietal wines are biodynamic and only 131 cases of the Mataro were produced in this 2008 vintage. Whether imagined or not, I find that, like many biodynamic wines, there was a brighter and earthier fruit on the palate. I know that Mourvedre is known to often be tannic with spicey, gamey and earthy overtones, but this wine had a bright acidity kicking in with the deep fruit that I find tends to be accentuated in many organic wines.

The nose just jumped out of the glass though and that garners big points with me and, overall, the wine's components were nicely integrated. I could see myself saying yes to these Young Punks down the road.

454. 2005 Vinos Sin Ley - Monastrell M5 (D.O. Yecla - Spain)

The other wine being added to The List is one of the five 100% Monastrell wines made by the Vinos Sin-Ley collective. Translated as "Wines Without Law," Vinos Sin-Ley chooses not to be bound by the often restrictive winemaking laws that are applied in the regions throughout Spain. The collective consists of a handful of winemakers that hope to use "creative innovation" and "non-conventional methods of harvesting, fermenting, blending, ageing and labeling" to produce fruit-driven wines at value-oriented prices.

I've tried M3 in the past but have been told that M5 is often picked as the most popular by consumers. The five Monastrell wines that are currently offered are each made by a different winemaker and each features grapes from a different region. M5 is produced by Araceli Gonzalez in the D.O. Yecla. This wine also has a relatively limited production, with only 2100 cases being made.

Although, when compared to many Spanish wines, the M5 features some big fruit and easy tannins, the overall profile wasn't as appealing as the Some Young Punks. The M5 also featured an earthiness beneath the fruit, but it was more prevalent than in the Lust Collides and was probably the biggest difference between the two wines.

Both Boo and I preferred the Lust Collides, but, at $27, the M5 has a substantially lower sticker price. Still not a bargain, but definitely cheaper.

I could see going back to both producers; however, I think I'd like to do a comparison tasting of as many of the M-series as I could find if I were to try the Vinos Sin-Ley again. And I think my first return to Some Young Punks would be to try one of their blends like Passion Has Red Lips or The Squid's Fist. We'd have to come up with an event worthy of the rocking labels though.

With all being said and done, I think it's important to note, however, that both wines went "perfectly" with the cookies that were delivered by the neighbouring kids. Young Miss got an Easy Bake Oven for her eighth birthday on the weekend and Boo and I were among the first recipients of her baking largesse. Who knew that they still made those things? But, nothing says lovin' like something from the Easy Bake Oven.

Thanks to The Passionate Foodie for coordinating this month's edition. I'll look forward to seeing all the various approaches to this up and coming varietal.

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