Erik Neilson on March 13, 2017 0 Comments Ah, Provence. The sheer mention of the name brings with it an Old World mystique that makes wine lovers drool and lose sight of what they’re focusing on at the moment. Within Provence, however, are a number of different sub-areas that characterize the region, many of which are responsible for the proliferation of some of the world’s finest wines. The fishing village of Bandol, west of Toulon, is case in point. If you’re new to Bandol wines, there’s a lot to learn, but only one thing you need to know — you’re in for a treat. The Geography of Bandol Bandol can be found situated near the east coast of Marseille and Cassis. The AOC covers 8 different communes, all of which are characterized by limestone and silica soils. Add to this the warm, coastal climate associated with the area, and it makes for an ideal location for growing late ripening grapes. Chief among these is the highly esteemed Mourvèdre, which must be present in at least 50% of a wine in order for it to be considered a true Bandol blend. Most producers in the area use significantly higher proportions of Mourvèdre, bolstering the grape with Grenache and Cinsaut. Characteristics of Bandol Wine Suffice to say, the natives of Bandol are incredibly vocal about how much they love their wine. Ask anyone who lives in the area, and they’ll likely utilize terms such as “leather,” “undergrowth” and “minerality” to describe the wines made in Bandol, and they’ll be spot-on in doing so. Flavors of dark fruit and clearing eucalyptus tend to dominate, with crushed violets and faint licorice often chiming in. These are complex, nuanced wines that need to be tasted numerous times in order to truly get a handle on what’s going on inside the bottle. Bandol Blends to Try As stated above, the unique qualities of Bandol wine give it a mysterious air, which can make grasping the wine’s nuances a challenge at first. It helps to try as many different Bandol blends as possible, and also to start with those that are actually worth your time and money. Here are a handful of great bottles of Bandol to seek out, each of which will give you a glimpse into what this fishing village region is capable of. Domaine Tempier Cuvée Cabassaou Domaine Tempier is likely the most well-known producer in Bandol, and their Cuvée Cabassaou is an astoundingly delicious offering that is not to be missed. Because of conditions relating to where the vineyards are situated, the Mourvèdre grape is allowed to reach full maturity without issue, which lends this wine its concentrated, deep flavors (Mourvèdre makes up for 95% of the blend). This is a full-bodied, powerful wine that features extremely tight tannins and may benefit from decanting for a period of time to bring out its dark fruit characteristics. If you can find a bottle, you won’t be disappointed. Tardieu-Laurent Mourvèdre Blend Bandol Slightly floral on the nose, Tardieu-Laurent Mourvèdre Blend Bandol opens up with a smokiness that can only come from French oak. This is an elegant, medium-bodied blend that brings to the palate flavors of tapenade, caramel and cassis, finishing with a compressed texture and wiry tannins that seem to be loaded with resolve. Capable of aging for quite a long period of time, this wine features a long aftertaste that leads one to crave another sip almost immediately. Domaine le Galantin Bandol Rouge A wine that is meant specifically to be aged for long periods of time, Domaine le Galantin Bandol Rouge is only made during special vintages. This dark, medium-bodied wine features a great deal of jammy characteristics melded with pepper, herbs and fresh-dug earth. The bitter flavors inherent in the wine balance its smokiness, which notes of olive, garlic and roasted figs lurking in the background. The terroir inherent in this wine is out of this world, especially considering the roughly $20 price-tag. Not to be missed. La Bastide Blanche Bandol Rosé While many of the best wines to come out of Bandol are indeed deep red blends, La Bastide Blanche Bandol Rosé is a shining example of the lighter wines to come out of the area. Complex and well-balanced, La Bastide Blanche Bandol Rosé delivers flavors of fresh white peach, blood oranges and rose hips, framed nicely by a subtle baking spice aroma and mid-palate. The wine’s creamy finish carries with it citrus and full-balanced floral characteristics that finish dry, with just a hint of sweetness. A beautiful wine for summer drinking. Château de Pibarnon Bandol Another relatively well-known wine from the Bandol region is Château de Pibarnon Bandol. Incredibly smooth with a soft, floral nose, Château de Pibarnon Bandol has aromas of strawberries, red cherries and fresh mulberries. It’s a crisp, buoyant wine that is as light and manageable as it is deep and complex in flavor, and there are few better options for pairing with food. Dry and tannic on the finish, Château de Pibarnon Bandol closed out with notes of tobacco, leather and dried fruit. Château Pradeaux Bandol Château Pradeaux Bandol is gamey, meaty and assertive in flavor, with a fruity and floral nose. Notes of forest floor, red fruit and sour cherries come through at the start, which quickly lead in the direction of stewed fruits and old dried flowers. 95% Mourvèdre means tannins that linger on and on, which leads one to believe that the wine will age considerably for many years to come. At under $20, this is one of the best deals that Bandol has to offer, and it’s typically not very difficult to find, either. La Suffrene Bandol La Suffrene Bandol is actually lower on the Mourvèdre count at 55%, but that doesn’t mean the bolstering grapes Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan don’t provide a great deal of unique qualities to the wine. The spritely nose is reminiscent of medicinal fruit, licorice and candied figs, framed nicely by light tannins and some slightly tarry notes. Finishes with elegance — aespecially for a wine that costs less than $15/bottle.