The Christmas Narrative: Part 3 - Three Wise Men

The Christmas Narrative: Part 3 - Three Wise Men

Published by Francis Elms on 20th Dec 2022

The mission, gentlemen, should you decide to accept it... is to find the whereabouts of missing grape variety "Monastrell" (a.k.a. Mourvedre and Mataro) before Christmas arrives. The team you've put together will be vital in finding him as their experience in food and wine is second to none, worldwide.

Gordo, as mission leader, with his Muscat d'Alexandrie connections in both Greece and Egypt, will attempt to find why Monastrell has gone to ground and is in hiding from the British public who, if they've come across him in a back-street restaurant, just can't get enough of this wonderful winter warmer with hearty stews and casseroles. Last seen below a bright star in the heavens, somewhere in the middle east, Monastrell can be recognised by its meaty, herby aromas and blackberry & black cherry flavours. With abundant tannins, perfect for pairing with red meat, Monastrell should be much more widely seen. It's a complete mystery in the wine world why this grape is so misunderstood. Gordo's number one recipe for tracking down Monastrell is one he discovered when in Provence on holiday, a wild area of vineyards, olive groves, cypress & stone pine forests, a short distance from the Mediterranean coast in the south of France. Known here as "Mourvedre" it went perfectly with a dish of lamb based mince rolled into balls and mixed with the local garrigue herbs. Grilled on an open fire of vine cuttings alongside some freshly caught sea bass, a simple green salad with the superb local Provencal olive oil was transformed into a culinary "Surf 'n' Turf" masterpiece by Gordo's incredible cooking ability. Hiding in plain sight, on the restaurant bar, Mourvedre was last seen heading for Chateau Vannieres, one of the best properties in the Bandol region. Richly perfumed on the nose with a concentrated palate with notes of mushrooms, spice and black fruits, Vannieres is as good an example of this style you'll find. If you get the chance to go there, track down a mature red bottle with ten to twenty years' age to it and it should easily change your mind and convert you to a believer. Awarded "2-Star Coup de Coeurs" by the Guide Hachette des Vins, the 1998 vintage for 78 euros would be an ideal bottle to pick up from the chateau. Not cheap, but then you're drinking it with a Gordo recipe!

Chateau Vannieres: Gordo's Provencal Mourvedre

The second member of the team, with particular knowledge of the fine wine and hospitality industry, is Monsieur Syrah. Annoyed with Gordo's attempt to hijack the French Connection, he is determined to prove that the missing grape, also known by its French nickname of Étrangle-Chien "The Dog Strangler" (yes, really), has actually escaped overseas to the USA. To be precise, there have been rumours of a sighting in the Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo County in southern California. Our wine guru extraordinaire has persuaded the "Impossible Mission" organisers that a visit to the sun-kissed Alban Vineyard is likely to bring about the capture of the runaway grape. As a fan of John Alban's wines, I have to agree with Monsieur Syrah that the visit alone to taste the range of Rhone varietals produced here is totally justified. Totally, dude! Alban winery is a great hideaway location as it doesn't even show up on Google maps. There's no signage off the road, no visitor centre, shop or restaurant, just some of the finest wines made in the USA. Available, with a long waiting list from local restaurants, the wines may be purchased from wine stores lucky enough to receive an allocation. The single barrel (around 300 bottles made) of Alban's Forsythe Vineyard "The Mason" Mourvedre 2013 is a Parker 97/100 rated wine and it's not alone in achieving plaudits at this level, notably also for the Reva and Lorraine Syrah wines. Retailing for $200 - $300 a bottle in the states, these are all stunning wines and, of course, Monsieur Syrah approves of them wholeheartedly. Featuring a very deep, inky purple colour and profoundly scented nose of grilled meat, charcuterie, tilled soil, underbrush and tree bark with a fruit core of preserved plums, blackberry pie and black currant cordial plus touches of liquorice and mocha, "The Mason" is full-bodied, rich, decadent and yet wonderfully plush, there is a compelling interplay in the mouth between gregarious fruit and earthy restraint, finishing with a refreshing lift that will have you reaching for another glass! Load up the Earthroamer RV with a case, or two, and the mission team will be very happy even if they stop off at an Olive Grove in San Luis Obispo for a pizza. Bring your own bottle to the party. Be very careful parking this beast.

Monsieur Syrah's Earthroamer RV and "The Mason" Mourvedre

The third and final member of the team to be chosen in this majestic quest, though obviously the most important, is Vino Nebbiolo... Italy's finest chef/restaurateur/TV entertainer and winemaking supremo(?) An all round "fun guy". [He told me to write that]. Vino's experience is all about bringing a sense of family-inspired, home-cooked recipes from Italy's Mediterranean south and pairing it all with a very large glass of Limoncello. Any dish can be improved by adding pasta, so he claims, but do steer clear of his "home made" wine. Vino by name, but not by nature! Convinced that the absconding grape would never travel to South Australia with a false passport under the name "Mataro", Vino decides that the best chance to find the real location is to stay within Europe. Only a short flight to Spain's east coast, where Jumilla, Yecla and Alicante have been known to have large plantings of Monastrell, Vino is looking forward to working his way through every vineyard, tasting everything where possible. Preferably staying in the region to get a thorough understanding of the flavour profile of wines made here, he can't believe that Italy doesn't have this variety, because it's definitely superior to the much maligned Nebbiolo of Barolo fame. Who would choose to drink that when you could have a Limoncello? Monsieur Syrah also tried to convince him that, if anywhere in Europe, it would be found in the Southern Rhone valley, blended with Grenache & Shiraz in a rich, spicy combination in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines from around Avignon. No chance, said Vino. Why would you go there for wine? Arriving in his favourite resort city of Benidorm, Vino headed inland to check out Juan Gil's 800ha of organic vineyards. With a large selection, heavily featuring Monastrell as star of the show, Vino was impressed by the quality and value of their wines, particularly the Silver Label. Varietal, juicy, soft and very drinkable with 12 months ageing in oak; a 93/100 rated bottle. It took several glasses to be fully convinced, but Vino was sure he'd tracked down the hiding place of the missing grape! Could it really be true? Had Vino out-done Gordo in the mission search?

Vino Nebbiolo's favourite Monastrell: Goru Gold

To confirm his assertion that Spain was the place to be, Vino also tasted the Ego Bodegas wines (Stocked by Frazier's) and decided that their new listing Goru Gold Tinto was the wine to bring home for Christmas!

"Chocolatey and rich, with effusive creamy vanilla". At under £15 a bottle it's not hard to snap up some from the shop (or online) this week. 

Just ask us for "Vino Nebbiolo's" recommended wine and forget the Limoncello on this occasion.

Products In This Article

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest updates on new products and upcoming sales

No thanks