We all remember the tale about the ugly duckling that turned into a swan and there’s a grape that fits the story perfectly.

Mourvedre, best known as a Southern French varietal but also known as Mataro in Australia and Monastrell in Spain, has often been seen as a curiosity grape and one most of us are generally more comfortable with as part of a blend rather than a standalone variety. In fact with its two amigos, Shiraz and Grenache, it’s become one of the wine world’s best-loved blends in a menage a trois commonly called SGM.

Mourvedre adds a rather charming rustic dullness to temper the spice of the Shiraz and the power of Grenache, a stiffener if you like but there’s far more to it than being the grape equivalent of the designated driver on a night out. Part of its problem is that its a problematic grape to vinify and can be prone to a rotten egg smell and astringent tannins if not handled right. Basically it’s the winemakers equivalent of polishing a turd hence its place as a blender.

There are one of two quite select and expensive single varietals being produced, especially in South America and parts of California, but to be honest as a standalone red variety it’s a long way from gracing my table. Thank heavens for Chateuneuf Du Pape with its multiple grape variety which often contains our ugly duckling and the above mentioned GSM blends from Australia.

Mourvedre’s real potential, however, may be as a single varietal rosé grape and it’s the boys and girls in South Africa who are leading the world in that respect. They have taken France’s ugly duckling and turned it into a gorgeous pink flamingo with flavours ranging from cool raspberries to strawberries and cream with a lovely crisp finish. The style is very similar to the classic Provence rosés, albeit with a tad more fruit and a racier finish, so it makes them far more adept at food matching. I’ve found them just as comfortable with buttered new potatoes and fish as they are with a bowl of strawberries or a rich salty cheese.

In the end, although my normal preference is towards red wines, I’m recommending a red and rosé this week having been completely bowled over by a corker in pink from Babylonstoren, one of my all time favourite producers from South Africa. Pip pip!


Babylonstoren Mourvedre Rosé, South Africa: Roses and strawberries on the nose leading into a palate full of strawberries and cream and a gorgeous refreshing finish. Gorgeous with salmon or a crisp crab salad. www.babylonstoren.com, £15.

Grounded Cru GSM, McLaren Vale, Australia: A lovely warm and generous style with plums, raspberries, blackberries and spice on the palate. Not too heavy and not too light, just a perfectly balanced summer red. Richardson’s of Whitehaven, £18.95