Rusty Sly: What is Mondeuse?
A couple of weekends ago I had a lot of fun brewing a Belgian Saison with two close friends of mine, George Skorka and Jennifer Tremayne. George has always fascinated me with his knowledge of wines and because of this knowledge he continues to challenge me about wines. The goal for today however, was to brew beer and allow me the opportunity to educate George on something that I have done for over 25 years. In order to help us make it through the grueling day of brewing we enjoyed some very fine wines.
I would like to share my experience with a very unique wine that George had brought. He knows that I love French wines and he shows me that I have a long way to go in my knowledge of this region. While brewing, he opened a bottle of Vin De Savoie St-Jean De La Porte Mondeuse. As with most French wines, they are Appellation Controlled. This wine comes from the Savoy region of France. The terroir is much like the Alpines where there are lakes and mountains creating an environment where the vines must grow on steep embankments and slopes. There are actually a handful of grapes that are unique to this region. The whites include Gringet, Roussanne, Altesse and Jacquere. For the reds, there is only Mondeuse. According to literature, many of these grapes are not suitable for growing in any other region.
Lineage of this grape has been difficult to substantiate. Originally the Mondeuse grape was believed to have come from northeast Italy’s Refosco, but this was proven wrong some years ago based on Ampelogical data.
Ampelographer, Dr. Jose Vouillamoz, of the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland revealed results of recent DNA research which prove a link between the grape varieties of Savoie and those of the northern Rhone Valley. With studies focused on Mondeuse Noire, a team at UC Davis and INRA in Montpellier, France proved that the parents of Syrah were two rare grape varieties, Savoie’s Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza from the Ardeche region. What was still unproven was a definite link between Mondeuse Blanche and Mondeuse Rouge. Recently, Vouillamoz has proven that Mondeuse Noire is either an offspring or a parent of Mondeuse Blanch which means that Mondeuse Rouge is either a half-sibling to Syrah or grand-parent to Syrah.
Mondeuse wines are dark in color and provide a bite that is not typical in French red wines. The wine is dark and bluish in color and the aromas are those of strawberry and raspberry. This wine is full bodied with lots of tannins. If allowed to age the tannins will soften after a few years. Since this was my first Mondeuse, I relied on literature to define the characteristics of a properly produced Mondeuse. A well made Mondeuse wine should have the body of a red Burgundy with the peppery fruit characteristics of a Beaujolais. I am not a lover of Beaujolais but I do like the Mondeuse. I believe that this is because of the much fuller body and mouth feel compared to the Beaujolais.
If you ever get the opportunity to try this wine don’t pass it up. It may surprise you as it did me. I continue to wonder how many more doors George will open for me in my quest for more experiences and knowledge, I guess when we bottle the beer I will find out. Thanks George.