Another internationally used name for Mourvèdre is Mataro, which is used in Australia and California. It is a town on the Mediterranean coast between Valencia and Barcelona. As the fourth-most planted red grape in Spain, it is mainly grown in Alicante, Jumilla, Valencia and Yecla.
Anyone who is vaguely versed in wine knows that when it comes to red grapes, “Rhône varieties” refers to Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan. But what if these Rhône varieties are actually not from Rhône at all?
Historic and DNA evidence show that of the four varieties, only Syrah truly hails from the French side of the Pyrenees, the mountain range dividing France and Spain. The remaining three historically come from the Spanish side of the mountains. This means they should be better known internationally by their Spanish names—Garnacha, Monastrell and Cariñena or Mazuelo.
At Wine Enthusiast we are even guilty of using the grape’s French names instead of their Spanish ones. In fact, Spanish blends made with these grapes are currently filed under “Rhône-style blend,” in our database. However, that’s how the majority of consumers have come to refer to and search for these wines.
But we think it’s time to put this erroneous term to rest. Here’s a look at how the moniker “Rhône varieties” came to be, where these grapes actually originated and how we should label them moving forward.