Vin de Bandol

Bandol is one of the oldest wine growing areas in France, with the Romans making wine over 2,500 years old. The annual production is now about five million bottles from 1100 hectares.

The area is known for using of the late-ripening Mourvèdre grape in both Red and Rosé wines, and all red wines must include at least 50% of this grape. No other region in France uses the Mourvèdre grape to the same extent, perhaps because it is hard to grow and needs a warm climate to ripen fully. At its best Bandol Red can be a rich meaty wine with layers of complexity, a velvety texture, and a spicy flavour. Most of the reds are best laid down for a decade or more, but they do need to be be well aired before drinking. A bottle opened, and only half drunk, can taste even better the next day!

The Cote du Provence – of which Bandol label is a part – produces some of the best Rosé wines in the world, and is over half of all rosé wines produced in France. This Rosé can vary quite dramatically in colour and aroma depending upon where it comes from. Some of the best are a pale, clear, apricot colour rather than the bright pink that is often associated with rosé. It is also a much drier and fresher wine than rosé from many other areas. They say about Bandol Rosé that: “There is a rosé to suite each person’s palate, so try of several to see what really gives you most pleasure”.

Cassis area, located toward Marseilles, is the only Provence wine region where the majority (75%) of its wine is white. This is mainly because of the high density of limestone in the soil. It has a slightly nutty flavour, is a dry, light, golden straw colour, and goes well with the local seafood. The Blanc de Blanc has a high reputation, and can be the perfect wine to make into a Kir cocktail with Crème de Cassis.

There are fifty-eight domaines, caves and châteaux in the Bandol region, and most do ‘degustation’, or tastings. The Office de Tourisme in Le Beaussett provides leaflets listing the Vins de Bandol, and showing where they are on a map. Some vineyards are very small and basic, and others much grander – and there is even one – le Terre Brun – which even provides lunch. The reception you get when you visit also varies, with some being tremendously helpful – providing the full tour and offering new wine to be tasted straight from a barrel before it’s bottled – others are less so.

Some of my favourites are listed below. It is worth remembering that though the cost of the Bandol wine is high, you can often get a ‘Bag-in-Box’ of the Cote du Provence ,or even of Bandol.

Domaine Tempier ***Probably the best and most well known domain in the area. It has three stars in Les Meilleurs Vins de France 2011 wine guide. At about 27 euros a bottle for the red the cost is high, but recently I opened a bottle of the 2000 Red, and it was wonderful. It needed a lot of air, but with the rich, deep spicy flavour, it was well worth the wait. Domain Tempier website.
Domaines OttAlso very well know, they do various different wines from the top of the range. These are known for their wonderful taste, and also the distinctive bottle. Under a different label. there is some very good cheaper wine. Domain Ott website.
Chateau De Pibarnon *A well know Chateau, well liked by the French. The wine is very good, but the usually expensive prices for Bandol at about 20 euros a bottle for Bandol Red. They don’t producer any cheaper reds, nor white or rose, and I have never found them very friendly. This gets one star in the Les Meilleurs Vins de France 2011 wine guide.
Domaine De La LaidiereOne of my favourites, and where I buy my normal rose. They do very fine wines in the standard bottle, and also good Bandol bag-in-box. You pay 32 euros for five litres of Bandol, or 16 euros for Vin de Table. They also do this in a red wine, but€ as I like a rather more mature red I find it a bit raw.
Domaine De CagueloupAn incredibly friendly and helpful place. They do bag-in-box at various different prices, as well as wine by the bottle. Mentioned in the French guide as a domain of note. Bandol red 22 euros per bottle, Cotes de Provence 7.50 euros per bottle, bag in box from 18 euros for 5 litres.
Domaine De La BergudeUnusually, this domain is up in the hills. This means that as you go up through the vineyards, you get a wonderful view of the sea. The wine is not cheap, but worth tasting as it’s quite different from other wines of the area. The owners are exceptionally nice, and enjoy showing people round their amazing facility. Again mentioned in the French guide as a domaine of note. At 25 euros per bottle, their wine is at the more expensive end of the market. Domaine De La Bergude website.
La Bastide Blanche *I visited the domain for the first time this last Christmas, as it had been given one star in the Les Meilleurs Vins de France 2011 wine guide. The wine was very tasty and I will be interested to see how the red improves with age, however I did not find them the friendliest of people. Same sort of price as Laidere at about 15 euros a bottle.
Domaine La SuffreneSt John’€s restaurant in London serves this wine, and this prompted me to try it. They have a large range, from expensive Bandol at 25 euros bottle to cheaper, but delicious red, plus bag-in-box at about 30 euros for 5 litres. They were very friendly, and happy to explain all about the different types of wine.
Chateau PradeauxThis is another Chateau that was mentioned in the French guide. Their wine is very good, but again at the top end of the market. They were friendly if a bit pretentious, but gave a lot of information regarding the wine, and in English - which is very useful. They suggest some of their wines should be retained for up to 25 years before drinking. The 1999 will be best if kept until 2024 (even I am not sure I could wait that long!).
Domaine De La Tour Du Bon *One star in the Les Meilleurs Vins de France 2011 wine guide, and friendly and nice. However, only bought one bottle as it was not really to my taste, and expensive.
Domaine Lafran-Veyrolles My mother and I tried this at a local restaurant. We especially liked the white, though the rose was also very good. Again expensive for everyday, but friendly people at the vineyard which always helps! They get a mention in the Les Meilleurs Vins de France 2011 wine guide
La CadierenneThis is a co-operative and probably the best in the area, it offers a wide selection of wine, in bottles, bag-in-boxes, and the 5 litre old fashioned bonbon that you fill up at the pump. Their prices are some of the lowest in the area, so it is well worth going and tasting as you might just find something that you like at a very good price.
Domaine De Lâ HermitageThis is not too far from La Daby just up in Veux Beausset. It is a while since I tried this, but a have a few magnums in the cellar and will update you when I taste them. I do remember they were friendly when I visited them.