Your Wine IQ

Bandol


Wine By Region Right Europe Right France Right Provence Right Bandol


The Bandol appellation is one of the most prominent of Provence, and probably considered the best internationally. Although at 2,700 acres it is not a small region, Bandol nonetheless is much smaller than Côtes de Provence and Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence. The Bandol appellation is centered around the village of the same name, but there are also vineyards in seven other neighboring villages. About 500,000 cases a year are produced, most of them red.

Made up mostly of Mourvèdre, the distinctive red wines need aging, and even after cellaring still show austere, highly powerful notes of black fruit, leather, and game. A number of factors combine to make Bandol's reds so potent. In addition, there are some whites and rosés produced; although they lack the distinctive flavoring of the reds, they can also be good.

History

One of Bandol's great advantages is its long history; although it was not made an appellation until 1941, Bandol has been growing wine nearly as long as France has, with proven instances of vineyards reaching back into the 600s or 500s B.C. Despite a number of wars throughout history and many other struggles, the wine was always maintained in the culture and today Bandol's history is one of its greatest assets.

Climate and Viticulture

Bandol is located in a nearly perfect area physically: limestone hills, located on terraces high above the Mediterranean sea. Climatically this location is perfect, but viticulturally it is problematic: the vines have to be harvested by hand, as mechanical harvesting would be impossible on the steep terraces. However, this "drawback" harms price, not quality; as a result, most Bandols are practically hand-crafted and this factor alone guarantees unique flavors and good quality.

Grape Varieties

Mourvèdre is required to make up at least 50% of Bandol wines, but the percentage is often higher. The wines here are unique; the combination of the characteristics of Mourvèdre and of the appellation make for flavors rarely tasted in any other wines. Flavors include black currant, blackberry, and black cherry, as well as thick, earthy game and leather and warm, cooked aromas. These intriguing, smoky styles will often open up well with 10 years' aging, and should be ripe and mellow after 15-20.

Mourvèdre is often considered too tannic, so Grenache and Cinsaut are often blended in to some degree. Bourboulenc, Clairette, and Trebbiano are used in the rarely seen white wines of the appellation.

Major Producers

Here is a list of four producers whose Bandols are high-quality and are often exported outside France.

Subregions

Bandol is too small to have specifically designated subregions, and producers don't generally use shared vineyard names (lieux-dits).