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14 October 2004

"Bandol harvest finishes early..."

This news story first appeared on Decanter.com in shortened form on 14th October 2004:
The costumed tradition of les Vendanges du Rond-Point des Mourvèdres – harvesting of 225 Mourvèdre vines planted on the roundabout near motorway exit La Cadière-Le Castellet north of the town of Bandol – took place on Thursday 7th October in temperatures of over 25°C, despite threats of rain issued by weather forecasters. The event usually symbolises the vintage in full swing but this year marked the finishing touches, and summed up the positive mood surrounding this year’s crop.
Michel Bronzo, owner of La Bastide Blanche and President of the Bandol Association, described 2004 as “following in the footsteps of 2000 and 2001, both great years for Bandol, after the difficult 2002 vintage and exceptionally hot 2003.” Nevertheless, he estimates production is 10-15% down on last year. Summer 2004 experienced more even temperatures, consistent sunshine and a little rain in August and September, followed by a drying Mistral. But, according to most growers, not enough rain to avoid near drought conditions. Bandol escaped the storms seen elsewhere in France, and the fine weather continued through September until the last grapes were picked in the first week October.
Eric de Saint-Victor of Château de Pibarnon, who finished picking their last parcels at the end of September, commented: “we already had excellent sugar and polyphenol levels, it would’ve been a pity to wait any longer… it could be a great vintage.” Freddy Estienne from Domaine de la Laidière was also enthusiastic: “we completed the harvest on Saturday 2nd October, it’s never been that early here.” He predicts 35-40 hectolitres per hectare (hl/ha) overall including whites and rosés. Yields for Mourvèdre for red wines will be nearer 25-30 hl/ha, also confirmed by Domaine de la Tour du Bon and Domaine de la Vivonne. Reynald Delille of Domaine Terrebrune in the commune of Ollioules ventured a cautious “very good” for the vintage, with average volumes of 35 hl/ha.

The ceremonial picking and pressing of grapes were followed by a tasting at the roadside (fortunately, the cops had partly blocked it off knowing what Med French drivers can be like...): I've highlighted a dozen favourites, a mix of young and older Bandol reds and rosés, on this page.
And either side of this event, I toured around several estates for some research I was doing on the Mourvèdre variety (links to article written for Wine Business, USA): Pibarnon, Laidière, Terrebrune, Vivonne, Tour du Bon, Bastide Blanche, Lafran-Veyrolles, Gros'Noré, Tempier, Ott and Sainte Anne. So overall, you'll find 150+ recommendations and reviews on this page including a few excellent older vintages...

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