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France - Bandol & Mourvèdre

Mourvèdre madness! Including trips & tastings 2003-2004: 'Macho Mourvèdre', 'Bandol Fête du Millésime' & 'Vendanges du Rond-Point des Mourvèdres'. Also Château Sainte Anne and Château Tournier Guilhem (2012)...

Most recent Bandol features are linked here:
Château Sainte Anne, Evenos (Jan 2012)
Château Tournier Guilhem, La Cadière d'Azur (Jan 2012).

And these estates are talked about and tasted in the 2003-2004 archives below: Domaine des Baguiers (Plan du Castellet), La Bastide Blanche (Ste-Anne du Castellet), Domaine de la Bégude (Camp du Castellet), Domaines Bunan/La Rouvière (La Cadière), Domaine de Frégate (St-Cyr-sur-mer), Domaine Lafran-Veyrolles (La Cadière d’Azur), Domaine la Laidière (Sainte-Anne d'Evenos), Domaine de l'Olivette (Le Brûlat), Château de Pibarnon (La Cadière d’Azur), Château Pradeaux (St-Cyr-sur-mer), La Roque (La Cadière d’Azur), Château Salettes (La Cadière d’Azur), Domaine Sorin (St-Cyr-sur-mer), Domaine de la Suffrène (La Cadière d’Azur), Domaine Tempier (Le Plan du Castellet), Domaine Terrebrune (Ollioules), Domaine de la Tour du Bon (Le Brûlat), Domaine de la Vivonne (Le Castellet).

Bandol trips & tasting notes 2003-2004

'Macho Mourvèdre...' Bandol day trip April 2003

Le rond-point des Mourvèdres. Magnificent, a roundabout dedicated to Mourvèdre: must be a good omen. This scene-setting postage-stamp vineyard, which is difficult to ignore if you take motorway exit 11 'La Cadière-Le Castellet' to the north of Bandol, lets you know immediately who’s boss around here. For majestic mythical Mourvèdre shapes not only the heart of the appellation on paper but also winegrowers' hearts and minds.

The Bandol AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée), snuggling comfortably between Marseille and Toulon, takes in a handful of villages located on the high ground forming a sweeping arena around the town. These include Bandol, Sanary, Le Castellet, La Cadière d’Azur and parts of St-Cyr sur Mer, le Beausset, Evenos and Ollioules. Everything else on the flatter areas is classified Côtes de Provence or Vin de Pays. It’s perhaps curious to note that Bandol itself houses few producers, and virtually no vines, and certainly none of the best ones. The region is made up of lots of mostly small properties, some of which, I’m told, are newcomers such as Domaine du Gros’Noré (not entirely true, he's been a grower here for many years but has only recently started selling his own wines) or were resurrected by ‘new money’ like Château de Pibarnon (relatively: the owner’s been there for 25 years). However, the latter and Domaines Bunan are in fact quite large and were two of three growers I visited on an uncharacteristically grey day back in early April 2003.
First stop was Moulin des Costes (83740 La Cadière d’Azur, 04 94 98 58 98, www.bunan.com), the seat of the Bunan family empire comprising this and three other estates that collectively create Domaines Bunan. I was welcomed by Paul, sitting godfather-like at his desk just through the office front door. He was a touch perturbed as apparently he didn’t know about my visit until that morning, so called his son Laurent - who did and is on the way - and daughter Françoise, who sounded charming on the phone (she looks after PR) and was in Marseille today. In the meantime, Paul filled me in on some interesting background information on their company and the appellation generally. His brother Pierre, who I met later out in the vineyards, is also part-owner and actively involved.
They have essentially two major vineyard areas in AOC Bandol. Moulin des Costes, located in La Cadière, covers some 25 hectares (60 acres) of steep, very stoney terraces with clay-chalk soils. Château la Rouvière and Mas de la Rouvière are two neighbouring but distinct plots across the other side of the valley near the village of Le Castellet, where arguably their best wines come from (actually the only ones they showed in the tasting, not sure if I should have read something into that...). Both are composed of limestone, sandstone and marl but the Mas has newer vines and a small proportion of Syrah planted as well. Not far from here you’ll also find their extensive Domaine du Bélouvé, which produces mostly Côtes de Provence and varietal vin de pays, bringing the family’s total to over 60 ha of Bandol and 80 ha of other.
As befits an appellation claiming high quality status, Bandol isn’t so sizeable totalling around 1400 ha (about 3450 acres, different written sources and opinions vary as to its actual size): just a shade more than Margaux but less than half of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, for example. In liquid terms about 4.7 million litres (520,000 cases of 12) were produced in 2002, a little less than usual thanks to yields of thirty-three hectolitres per ha due to challenging weather conditions. The maximum for AOC is technically forty, which I was told "is always undershot." Then again, we know how French growers like to boast about modesty of yields (and without saying how they're actually measured). Typically green-harvesting is done in July/August to remove excessive bunches (and I assume on top of judicious pruning and trimming besides).
The second aim of this is to get the remaining grapes "very ripe at harvest, at 14-15° potential with no chaptalisation" (I should hope not this far south, where it’s not permitted anyway!). “We want good tannin ripeness too,” Paul explained, “so we get rich colour and roundness, although these are vins de garde (for keeping)… it’s the quality of the terroir and grower that counts,” re-emphasising that volume isn’t of interest here. I accidentally dropped the term 'Midi' into the conversation, trying to describe the south in general, but was rightly rebuked for ‘vin du Midi’ is considered a pejorative term. “It’s also rarer to get a great red wine this close to the sea,” he concluded.
Bandol’s reputation for reds clearly stems from estates like this, as on average the AOC actually produces 65-70% rosé wines, which can be serious, full and fruity, and 5% of sometimes uninspiring whites. Bunan make 60% red wines, 35% rosé and 5% white; Domaine Tempier nearer 65-70% red, up to 30% rosé and only 3% white; and at Château de Pibarnon the proportions are similar focusing primarily on red then rosé.
Laurent arrived and was happy to show me around their vineyards, despite limping heavily and clearly in pain (from a skiing accident) getting in and out of the car. Moulin des Costes rests on a hill made up of "very old soils" laden with flat rectangular stones; a little further beyond here the soil contains more clay. There’s 60% Mourvèdre here, old and new plantings together, tended in gobelets (traditional bush vine pruning). The Cinsault and Grenache are planted to double cordon royat here: "gobelet is preferred but Cinsault can perform better if lifted up a bit on a wire," achieving 30 hl/ha and very good degree of ripeness. The Bunan’s vineyards aren’t farmed organically but they don’t use systemic chemicals or fertilisers: “The soil’s very important for the grapes, for ripening.”
Château la Rouvière red, their top of the range, is typically enriched with over 90% Mourvèdre, which grows on old walled terraces where there are fewer stones and the soil is shallower. This is nevertheless worked five or six times per year to aerate it. During vinification, pigeage (plunging) is done in wooden tronconique vats (wider at the top than bottom) to enhance extraction with maceration time running from 15 to 20-35 days for the top cuvées, which "works due to the ripeness of tannins" achieved. As Laurent reminded me again: “we like very ripe grapes!” The wines spend 18-24 months in oak starting in large foudres (tuns) and rounded off "briefly" in barriques.
As already mentioned, yields were lower in 2002 with later picking so the grapes were properly ripe and in good condition; the weather was a bit kinder here with less rain than elsewhere in France (e.g. it was a bit of a disaster in the southern Rhone and eastern Languedoc). 2001 was also a tricky vintage, maturity coming very quickly and with it 15-16° if you weren’t careful; but those who got it right reaped the rewards of some superb wines. 2000 was very ripe producing big wines with more cooked fruit characters; 1999 gave higher acidity and perhaps better balance. 1998 is on the whole pretty classic too.
We finished the tour by tasting these Bunan wines: Château la Rouvière Blanc de Blancs 2001 made from Clairette Pointue, actually quite good; two lovely 2002 rosés - the Mas and Château - the latter more serious with 50% Mourvèdre and 14% alcohol; 99 Mas red - "used by Le Gavroche as their vin de chasse," I was told (I take that to mean the wine they recommend with wild game in season rather than the one the owner fuels up on while wielding a shotgun) - showing chunky concentration and structure; and the splendid 2000 Château red - 95% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah - with lots of ripe black fruits, power, grip and depth. You'll find my full notes and ratings in a separate paragraph below.
The next stop was to slightly well-known Château de Pibarnon (Chemin de la Croix des Signaux, 83740 La Cadière d’Azur, 04 94 90 12 73); actually located next door to the Bunans in terms of bordering vineyards, but the only way there by car is to take the windy road all the way down again, around and back up the hill. Eric de Saint Victor and his father Henri, the Comte in fact, were suitably attired in blue jackets, light chinos and smart shirts with no tie, as you might expect for laid-back former aristos who live in the south. We jump into Eric’s 4x4 for a quick tour of Pibarnon’s vineyards, which lie on some of the appellation's highest slopes at 300 metres above the town of Bandol. Again the soils are composed of rocky clay and chalk but particularly chalky here (18-33%), which they believe helps to tame Mourvèdre that makes up +90% of their red wine. As Eric put it: “It’s very macho, on this soil we manage to make something quite fine.”
In 1989-90, the Saint Victors rebuilt the terraces recreating a kind of amphitheatre facing south-east, quite sheltered from the powerful Mistral winds. This was a crucial part of the step-by-step restoration of the estate started by Eric’s father in the late 1970s. It was gradually expanded to 50 ha by fermage, leasing then buying one parcel after another. Up here "the climate is very Mediterranean; 20 km inland it’s much more continental." So it gets just hot enough to ripen Mourvèdre properly, picked late but with less of a worry about possible problems from rot. “You can’t make ‘modern’ wines easily with Mourvèdre, it’s a good growers’ grape,” Eric continued. “There’s a big difference between Mourvèdre on acidic and chalky soils; on chalk it gives more structure and elegance.”
To prove the point, we adjourn to the cellar to taste some wines (see below) including 2001 & 2002 reds from cask. "Mourvèdre often shows its primary fruit for longer, for over a year then it closes up," Eric said. The 2001 from cask did exemplify this, offering lovely fruit set against real depth and firm grip but rounded too. I commented that it "makes a nice change not to see piles of expensive new oak barrels," the norm here being mostly large old foudres. They’re experimenting a bit with new oak and barriques, but “the problem with Mourvèdre is that it’s very aromatic (and tannic),” Henri explained, “adding oak loses the Pibarnon character. It would taste too much like Médoc or Graves.”

The Château is surrounded by several unique parcels; the cuvées from each are kept separate until later, while some are only used for rosé. 2001 ‘Bel Air’ (from cask) was tighter, less obviously fruity, quite firm but elegant too. 2001 ‘barrique’ showed spice and vanilla but concentration and firm textured tannins, in fact more so. The 2002 ‘Gd. Haut’ (from vat) was very fruity and aromatic, actually has a lot of tannin but not aggressive displaying nice fruit v structure. This will go back into wood; they’re reorganising the cellar and about to take out the 2001s. The 2002 ‘Pointes Blanches’ - the spot "at the limit" in terms of chalk content, otherwise chlorosis can be a problem (where the chalk interferes with the plant's iron uptake leading to anaemic leaves and sometimes drastically reduced photosynthesis) - had deeper colour, less aromatic fruit, more weight and structure with power and grip (‘wow’ in fact). ‘Jourdan’ was more elegant with tangy fruit; and finally the 2002 press wine was pretty decent, not too tannic surprisingly.
Over lunch (lovingly prepared by Mme de Saint Victor), I got the chance to compare their 2001 & 2002 rosés and taste four vintages of Pibarnon red, which all provoked a lively discussion on food and wine matching, among other things. We agreed the 01 rosé worked better than the 02 with the sea bream; the latter was very zingy and an attractive aperitif but needs to settle down a little. “The rosés here are very good with local food such as anchovies, sea urchin and mullet,” Catherine expanded. “Rosé used to be a hard sell in France, now sales have rocketed. And they also go with ethnic cuisine: it’s a modern wine!” Eric added. The 2000 red, his first vintage overseeing the winemaking, showed very good potential; the powerhouse 97 beginning to turn sweet and herby; 95 soft and mature; and the highlight, the deliciously complex 1990. They told me Bandol goes well with pigeon (the French aren't very bird squeamish), and these reds certainly did taste good with the succulent duck we were treated to here.
We talked further about Bandol in the context of competition with wines from elsewhere in France and the world. Henri took Australia as an ill-advised example: “they don’t evolve in the glass, which is what makes a wine particularly suitable for restaurants.” I agreed with the principle but argued, a little more than half-heartedly, there are indeed many Oz wines that complement food well. We moved on to comparisons with Bordeaux, as Henri amusingly quoted a facetious yet flattering quip by the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur. “Château Latour, c’est le Pibarnon de Pauillac,” which at least says something about the reputation they’ve achieved. “When English restaurants don’t want to or can’t pay for top Bordeaux, Bandol is a quarter of the price but still offers complex flavours, tannins and depth,” he continued responding to criticism that these wines are quite expensive.
The conversation inevitably returned to treasured Mourvèdre, perhaps because somebody had fetched a jug of chilled 2002 red from the vat, which matches the raspberry tart wonderfully! Their rosé is made by ‘bleeding’ the vat, which also concentrates the Mourvèdre for the reds, but you have to be careful otherwise they can become too tough. “We have to have a heart-attack to create Mourvèdre,” Henri stressed, like in a Greek drama.
Eric dropped me off at equally famous Domaine Tempier (1082 Chemin des Fanges 83330, 04 94 98 70 21, www.domainetempier.com), a little later than the itinerary, and apologised for “accumulating a couple of Provençal quarter of an hours.” Daniel Ravier, manager and winemaker at this lower-lying estate located in Le Plan du Castellet, shrugged without batting an eyelid: “it happens.” Tempier is owned by the Peyraud family, and it was Lucien who, as president of the growers’ Syndicat back in the early days, pushed for Mourvèdre to become the main variety (re)planted and hence backbone of the AoC. "He was proved right twenty years later: more difficult to grow, less grapes but much better wine." Daniel has been here for 10 years; the Peyrauds wanted someone from outside the family but who’d continue in the same spirit. The Domaine extends to 30 ha, mostly owned but with two sites under fermage.
Without further ado, we proceeded to tasting Tempier’s whites and rosés, 2002 & 2001 reds from cask then 2000s in bottle (see notes below). The white grapes - Clairette, Ugni Blanc, Bourboulenc - are actually picked last as they’re planted in cooler spots, and it shows with 13.8% adding weight to the 01 white. From 2002 vintage Daniel started using some new foudres for whites. The 01 rosé just had the edge on the 02 as it’d developed nicely; both contained 50% Mourvèdre and underwent the malo-lactic fermentation (MLF: converts sharper malic acid to softer lactic), which is “philosophical not technical, I think the terroir comes through better and it gives more body.”
Daniel started buzzing around the cellar drawing off samples of reds from cask after cask; I struggled to keep up, he was talking very quickly as well. For the basic 2002 red he did one pump-over per day with 3 weeks maceration, as “I don’t want a forceful extraction. We don’t get the finesse of Pibarnon but do keep the balance.” This blend has less Mourvèdre and is aged in used 50 hl wooden vats. The ‘Cuvée Classique’ also originates from quite young vines but is richer and more structured; it’s aged in 16 hl new foudres. Daniel has started renewing the casks “to add that missing something - c’est pas net (could mean not clean or marked/distinct).” He doesn’t fine or filter; the 2001s were racked four times, more than usual, which he thinks is the way forward for them: “…in large vats on the verge of reduction.”
Daniel recalled 2002 being the longest and hardest vintage in 15 years, and at this stage seemed pretty good and more forward. We then tasted ‘la Migoua’, a single vineyard located at over 200m higher than here to the south, comprising 50% Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault and Grenache. This is typically “wilder” than ‘la Tourtine’, made up of 80% Mourvèdre and very structured & concentrated. I was told a mystery cask chalked up ‘F51 CAB’ comes from 1 ha of “exceptional terroir” with over 80% Mourvèdre, and did indeed provoke the ‘wow’ description again: lovely fruit, very tight and very firm.
On to the 2001s: in terms of phenolic (tannin/colour) ripeness, it was one of the best of recent vintages along with 1998. The ‘Cuvée Classique’ showed this nicely with attractive balance of rich black fruits, power and structure. ‘La Migoua’ and ‘la Tourtine’ were excellent, the extra intensity of the latter apparently coming from 35+ year-old vines. Another mystery wine, ‘F40 CAB’, proved to be very spicy and rich with serious bite and grip. “It’s a bit over the top at 16.5°,” Daniel admitted.
I also tasted four different 2000 reds, which scored from 89 to 94 in my book and showed fine poise between ripe fruit, extraction, power and some elegance too. “It’s very easy to make concentrated wines, but more difficult to achieve balance.” Again the stars of the vintage were ‘la Mig’ and ‘la Tourt’, both showing real promise for the future. Finally he dug out a bottle of their 1982, which was probably looking better than some top Bordeaux and rewarded with 95+ points. It was getting quite brown but displayed lovely complex dried raspberry and cassis fruit, rustic and sweet; mature and soft but still had some freshness and structure underneath that sweet liquorice fruit; completely delicious with real elegance and length too. A suitably sublime moment to end the day on.

Bandol Fête du Millésime 2003

My tasting notes from this lively outdoor event can be found below under the relevant producer's paragraph (dated accordingly), or separately at the very bottom of the page, which offer a first glimpse of wines from this year's sun-drenched vintage; plus a few majestic older ones as well. Held on the 7th December 2003 (this is a worth-checking-out annual event by the way, usually over the first weekend in Dec.) all along the port in Bandol town, it was a kind of more hedonistic version of 'en primeur' tastings with the emphasis on a fun day out rather than serious trade affair. The red wines had either just gone into barrel or were about to; the overall vibe is that the vintage is looking very promising at this stage for all three colours, even the whites (sometimes a bit ordinary yet priced at a similarly high level). By the way, the following were voted 'Longues Gardes' 2003 (showing the best ageing potential): Ch. Salettes, Dom. La Suffrene and Ch. de Pibarnon. Unfortunately, I didn't taste the first two but go along with the latter choice.

Vendanges du Rond-Point des Mourvèdres October 2004
'Bandol harvest finishes early'

This news story first appeared on Decanter.com 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..." The full story is here.
The ceremonial picking and pressing of grapes were followed by a tasting at the roadside - I've highlighted a dozen favourites below, a mix of young and older Bandol reds and rosés. The 2003 rosés in particular, with their seductive weight and freshness, went rather well with the mussels steamed in wine and herbs served up to keep us going. And having tasted some 2004s (all colours) at various stages of vinification, I can confirm that this could be a pretty classic vintage. Bandol reds might sometimes seem a bit pricey, but, in general, they stack up well against comparable quality from Bordeaux, California or Australia, often offering better value. However, charging the same price for the white or rosé (and selling them a few months after vintage without having to age them!) is a bit strong, even if some of them are very good (originally written 26/4/04).
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, you'll also find 150+ recommendations and reviews below including a few excellent older vintages. And while you're at it, click here for more wines made from Mourvèdre, aka Monastrell and Mataro from Spain, Australia and South Africa. Now, this really is getting a bit obsessive!

Bandol tasting notes & ratings

These wines - mostly reds unless it says otherwise - were tasted between September and December 2004, except where stated i.e. tasted in April 2003 or December 2003 on the corresponding occasion (refer to scribblings above).

Domaines Bunan

Tasted April 2003:
2001 Château la Rouvière blanc de blancs
 (Clairette pointue - yes, that's the 'pointed' variety) - Floral and aromatic underlined by oily and citrus notes too, quite full and long with crisp mineral edges on the finish. 83-85
2002 Mas de Rouvière rosé (Grenache Cinsault Mourvèdre) - lightly pink, zingy youthful nose leads to lovely 'sweet' strawberry fruit and attractive fresh acidity, shows a little concentration and complexity too. 84-86
2002 Château la Rouvière rosé same leading with M - Similar colour to the Mas, more closed and less obviously fruity on the nose; weighty and quite structured showing good power yet elegant style. More serious, drink with food definitely. 86-88
1999 Mas de Rouvière rouge (Mourvèdre Syrah Cinsault) - Quite deep colour, has rustic notes on the nose wrapped in lovely ripe berry fruits and herbs too; attractive coating on the palate of ripe smoky fruit and chunky yet rounded tannins, structured and pretty concentrated set against earthy/ripe background. 89+
2000 Château la Rouvière rouge (Mourvèdre Syrah, 14.5% "very low yields") - Very ripe dried black fruits, concentrated and powerhouse enveloped in grippy tannins v sumptuous ripeness, leaving lovely layered mouthful; needs time. 91+

Domaine de la Laidière

Freddy Estienne

1998 cuvée spéciale (98% Mourvèdre) – complex rustic development plus ripe black fruits and dried herbs, lovely depth of fruit and style offering a coating of attractive tannins and liquorice fruit; high yet balanced alcohol and good grip keeping this delicious wine very much alive, still has power and elegance on the finish. 95-97
2001 (70% Mourvèdre) – richer and smokier than the 2002, delicious ripe complex black cherry / olive fruit, very good concentration yet it’s elegant too, dry but rounded tannins and superb fine finish. 94
2002 (65% Mourvèdre) – attractive youthful cherry fruit on the nose and onto the palate, spicy and pure; juicy quite soft mouth-feel and just a touch of dry tannin show its immediate drinkability, good wine for this lighter vintage. 87
2003 (cask sample tasted December 2003) - note to follow. 87
2003 rosé (60% Mourvèdre) – very zesty and fragrant red fruit style building to a creamier palate, nice freshness and length. 87
2003 blanc (Clairette and Ugni Blanc) – perfumed and honeyed aromas, lightly oily texture lifted by floral honeysuckle notes, fairly crisp finish with good length; unusual. 87

Château de Pibarnon

2001 (magnum with lunch, as you do) – a little closed to start, opens up to reveal hints of black cherry / berry and peppery intensity; tight framework showing firmness yet finesse, a tad of chocolate oak, liquorice and spice; the structured and elegant length points to a good future ahead of it. 92-94
1998 – lovely developing rustic nose with hints of green and black olives, also some perfumed floral spice comes through; powerful weighty mouthful with firm grip countered by lots of smoky fruit, textured coating and length. 95+
2000 – aromatic spicy ripe nose, a hint of chocolate on the palate and subdued background fruit, pretty powerful with firm bite of tannins; not expressing itself very well at the moment. 89+?
2002 (90% Mourvèdre, 10 Grenache) – fairly forward, aromatic and farmy black olive nose; tighter in the mouth, quite firm but certainly not aggressive showing a tad of sweet oak too, nice fruit and length, pretty elegant v structured; beginning to drink now but will go further. 88
1989 Vieux Marc de Bandol (100% Mourvèdre, evaporated to 45% alc. from 60+ not diluted) – complex smell somewhere between Armagnac and Grappa, a touch of sweetness from the oak (aged in new foudres), powerful but fruity and rustic with spicy length. 89
2003 blanc (Clairette, Borboulenc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Petit Manseng, Viognier) – aromatic and floral with oily notes that continue onto the palate lending texture, quite fat and weighty (13.5%) yet still has a touch of freshness; reminiscent of white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. (Also tasted Dec 03 so average =) 85-87
2003 rosé – forward and fruity offering ‘sweet’ strawberry flavours, ripe oily texture and weight lengthened by its 13.5%, light background acidity. (Also tasted Dec 03 so average =) 85-86
2003 rouge (cask sample tasted December 2003) - note to follow. 90+
Tasted September 2003:
1999 (magnum) - very dense purple/black colour showing some tinges of brown, rich texture and tannic structure but nicely layered with ripe black fruits and hints of oak/chocolate. Drinking quite well now with food but really needs a few years more to mellow. 89-91
Tasted April 2003:
2001 from cask (Mourvèdre Grenache) - Showing lovely fruit, super depth on the palate compounded by firm grippy yet rounded tannins; will be very good. 90-92
2000 - Nice aromatic berry fruit tinged with a touch of earth and wood spice notes; solid concentration and tight palate, firm yet supple; powerful and fiery at the moment finishing a little out of balance, but will go some. 90
1997 - Turning sweet and dried herby and a bit more rustic, with attractive black fruits v big tannins, powerhouse palate yet concentrated and structured; rich mouthful. 92+
1995 - Lovely maturing sweet liquorice nose, quite soft and silky underpinned by remaining touches of firmness, very attractive now, perhaps lacks the structure to go much further. 89
1990 - Deliciously complex developing nose offering rich aromas of dried fruits, earth, liquorice and black cherries/berries; sumptuous palate with complex dried fruits, herbs and rustic edges; very long and fine supported by low-key tannin still keeping it alive. 94+
2001 rosé (Mourvèdre Cinsault) - Quite weighty and full with some summer fruits but losing its aromatics, more serious and lengthy on the palate. Shone later at lunch with the sea bass! 84+
2002 rosé - Floral, very aromatic and lively, zippy fruit and acid underlined by attractive fruit extract. 85+
2000 Les Restanques de Pibarnon, Vin de Pays du Mont Caume - Made from 3 year old vines i.e. too young to qualify for AOC Bandol yet. Ripe and smoky, rustic and juicy fruit is rounded out further with a bit of new oak spice. 84

Domaine Terrebrune

2002 (80% Mourvèdre) – attractive pure smoky cherry fruit, showing shades of Sangiovese; a touch of bite and structure set against ‘sweet’ fruit and elegant finish; another good 2002. 89
2001 (80% Mourvèdre) – more closed on the nose than the 2002 with subtle black fruits and violets too; tighter more concentrated palate, enticing intensity of fruit layered with quite firm tannins at the moment, perhaps a touch bitter (although this sample was very cold) yet still has that elegant length and style. 92
1999 Réserve (nearly 100% Mourvèdre) – a bit broody and reduced on the nose, but has lots of ripe black cherry fruit and liquorice in the mouth, very structured and powerful with nice coating of grippy tannins and tight focused length. 94
1990 – maturing rustic dried fruit and black olive, herbal intensity as well; plenty of delicious ripe fruit and soft layered tannins, richness v bite, very long lively finish. 95-97
1987 – supple earthy cherry fruit with a herbal medicine edge; turning quite animal and very ‘sweet’ with underlying tobacco notes, the alcohol carries a bit but this has lovely mature fruit and elegant finish. 92-94
2003 (cask/vat sample) - gorgeous black cherry kirsch aromas underpinned by liquorice, raisins and spice notes; firm structure and bite yet has lovely elegant roundness and length, intense finish. (Also tasted Dec 03 so average =) 90-95
2003 blanc (Clairette, UB, Bourboulenc, Rolle) – perfumed honeysuckle nose, oily texture, quite weighty and full (13%) with nice finish and mineral intensity; a food white. 88
2003 rosé – offers very fresh lively floral raspberry fruit, zingy mineral intensity, stylish and subtle. (Also tasted Dec 03 so average =) 88
1992 rosé – yes, that's correct, a 10+ year-old rosé! Mature nutty fruit, full and broad palate, surprisingly alive and unusual, not particularly oxidised. 87+

Tasted December 2003:
2000 - plenty of spicy ripe fruit, again finishes a little hot (a common feature of many 2000s). 86-88
1998 - Some reductive/sulphide notes on the nose but also displays lots of liquorice fruit, richly textured and structured with decent concentration and length. 87-89

La Bastide Blanche

2003s all cask samples:

2003 Château des Baumelles (80-85% Mourvèdre rest Grenache) – quite rich and rustic with blackberry/cherry, lovely fruit and concentration set against dry but soft tannins, leaving an attractive coating of fruit v chocolate. 89
2003 La Bastide Blanche (80% Mourvèdre + Grenache) - pure spicy black cherry and blueberry fruit, much firmer and more structured than the Baumelles; quite powerful with good length and grip. (Also tasted December 03 so average =) 89-91
2003 LBB Cuvée Fontanieu (100% Mourvèdre) - dense colour and rich smoky black fruit characters, the fruit closes up a bit on a tight palate showing fine tannins and very long finish. 91-93
2003 Baumelles (100% Mourvèdre) – fruitier cherry aromas, quite open yet complex with nice spicy fruit, dry coating of tannins leaving a grippier finish. 88
2003 LBB (88% Mourvèdre, 12 Grenache) - rustic touches on the nose, nice fruit balancing very firm tannins leading to powerful structured length. 91-93
2003 as above but aged in new demi-muits (600 litre cask) – touches of vanilla and spice but there’s good fruit underneath; different tannin texture, more rounded and chocolaty.
2003 as above but aged in barrique – more chocolate still with coconut notes, again different tannin texture but less character, shorter and woodier finish.
2003 Baumelles (100% Mourvèdre, demi-muits) – very firm and tight, hints of vanilla but also has good fruit concentration.
2001 Baumelles (100% Mourvèdre 14.5%) – a touch baked and overly meaty, concentrated and firm in the mouth, finishes a bit oxidised and bitter. Could be a dud bottle. 77-80
2001 LBB Cuvée Estagnol (100% Mourvèdre 14.5%) – quite broody and meaty on the nose with black cherry and liquorice notes, very powerful and firm, big mouthful with thorough concentration and depth. 91+
2001 LBB Cuvée Fontanieu (100% Mourvèdre) – lovely black olive and ripe plum, very firm tannins set against super rich fruit, powerful yet hides its 15.5% alcohol well; perhaps a touch bitter and extracted on the finish but has great depth of fruit too, needs 5-10 years to express itself properly. 92+
2000 Fontanieu (13.5%) - ‘sweeter’ and more rustic / developed, very concentrated and firm but is finer than their 2001, super finish and length. 93
2000 Estagnol (14%) - complex and smoky, quite soft liquorice and dried fruits on the palate, dry yet nicely textured tannins; more elegant and less beefy than the 2001 (the inverse of many other 2000s). 94
1998 Longue Garde ‘non-filtré’ - Attractive ripe rustic notes, full tannins but it’s rounded and relatively smooth-textured with nice depth and style; will keep for 10 years+. 93 (December 2003)
2003 rosé (from vat about to be bottled, special blend not for French market 90% Mourvèdre) – oily red fruits, quite full and rounded intensified by yeast-lees notes; structured over aromatic in style. 85+
2003 blanc (100% new Burgundy barrique) – full golden colour, a bit too much of the toasty vanilla notes, richer rounder style than usual. 80
2004 rosé Château des Baumelles (their other property in Saint Cyr sur mer, 86% Cinsault 14 Grenache from vat) – lively and estery, nice concentrated red fruits with crisp bite. 85
2004 rosé BB (vat 100% Cinsault) – very fruity and lively on the nose, more mineral in the mouth yet has less firm acidity, long finish; very different from the Baumelles. 87

Domaine de la Tour du Bon

2002 – forward cherry fruit, shows fair depth and grip yet drinking well now. 85+
2004s from vat (not finished fermenting with residual sugar) – La Chance (mostly chalk): vivid blackberry fruit with attractive smooth tannins. Tour du Bon (more clay) – nice aromatic fruit, much firmer already.
2000 – much more concentrated and firmer than the 2002, quite tight elegant and lengthy on the finish; shows good balance of tannic grip and depth of fruit, 15% alc. gives it serious weight but it works here. (Also tasted Dec 03 so average =) 92
2001 – had been open too long but still shows it underlying structure and class.
2001 St-Ferréol - Shows lovely liquorice fruit, great depth, personality and length. 90-92 (December 2003)
2003 blanc (Clairette Ugni Blanc Vermentino) – quite fat and nutty with rich oily texture, flavoursome start but turns flabby. 80
2002 blanc (Clairette Ugni Blanc Vermentino) – tasted December 2003, note to follow. 85
2003 rosé (Cinsault Grenache Mourvèdre) – zesty yet creamy too, weighty in the mouth, drinking well now. 85

Domaine de la Vivonne

2002 Côtes de Provence Ancienne Propriété Lantéri (84% Mourvèdre, 14 Carignan, 2 Grenache) – lightly rustic peppery aromas, a touch reduced but otherwise offers nice simple fruit and easy drinking. 80
2002 Vivonne (100% Mourvèdre) – aromatic black cherry fruit with peppery spice notes, has a bit of structure and bite against easy fruit, quite open and elegant too. 85+
2001 Vivonne - powerful blackberry nose, quite big and structured yet has attractive tannin texture, tighter length and grip than the 2002, elegant finish despite the high alcohol (15%). 90-92
2003 rosé (60% Grenache 40 Mourvèdre) – delicious creamy strawberry edged with wilder fruit flavours, nice style and weight; very fruity finish, drinking well now. 87
2003 rouge (cask sample tasted December 2003) - note to follow. 89

Domaine Lafran-Veyrolles

2004 (from new 50 hl foudre or tun, 100% Mourvèdre) – gorgeous black cherry & berry fruit with toasted liquorice notes, lovely ripe fruit with nice rounded tannins providing mouth-coating structure, good concentration with fine long finish. 90+
2004 Cuvée spéciale (probably: if not will go into tradition blend, 'massale' selection vines 15 hl/ha in barriques) – very dense purple/black colour, delicious ripe black fruits with black cherry liquorice notes; very concentrated fruit supported by grippy tannins, firmer yet richer than the tradition blend. 93+
2003 (virtually 100% Mourvèdre from 2 year old 65 hl foudre for about a year, will be bottled in 6 months or so) – displays some development with complex rustic ripe fruit on the nose, solid grip backed up by good depth of fruit, firm yet quite fine with long structured finish. (Also tasted in Dec 03 so average =) 90+
2002 tradition – appealing forward black cherry fruit, a touch of spice and firmness in the mouth with elegant length; attractive now. 85
2002 spéciale (c. 100% Mourvèdre) – smokier and richer than the tradition showing greater depth of fruit and firmer structure, needs a bit more time. 87+
2001 spéciale (c. 100% Mourvèdre) – complex rich smoky black fruits tinged with a subtle touch of spicy wood, lovely concentration v firm grip, closed long finish; structured bite v ripeness and stylish coating of flavour, 15.5% gives it power yet it’s still elegant. Needs 5+ years. 94
2000 spéciale (c. 100% Mourvèdre) – more animal and developed than the 2001 showing delicious black cherry fruit, very rich and concentrated with firm coating, power on the finish yet still tight and elegant. Nicer now than the 2001 but will still develop. 95
1989 – attractive farmy dried fruit and liquorice aromas, complex and minty too; quite soft and mature with rustic fruit and oily texture, still structured and alive with long finish; interesting older style. 92
2003 blanc – aromatic honeysuckle and banana notes, a touch of yeast-lees complexity to the palate with fairly crisp finish for a 2003. 85+
2004 (vat) – lively citrus aromas followed by elegant mineral zing in the mouth, shows lovely fruit and fair acidity. 87
2004 rosé (vat 60% Mourvèdre) – quite fine and bright fruit character, crunchy yet creamy red fruits finishing with crisp citrus edge. 87
2003 – rose petal aromas set against oily fruit, shows attractive texture, quite weighty yet has elegant mineral length as well. (Also tasted Dec 03 so average =) 87-89

Domaine du Gros’Noré

(Mostly Mourvèdre + Cinsault, Grenache and Carignan)
2001 – enticing smoky nose with just a hint of subdued oak, quite tight and firm set against rich depth of fruit. Goes well with figatelli (Corsican pork/pork liver sausage). 92+
2000 – more rustic and developed than the 2001, lovely smoky rich fruit, quite high alcohol yet shows some elegance too, long and quite soft finish with fine tannins. Tasting average (Dec 03 cask sample, Oct 04 and Nov 04) 90-92
2003 (cask) – lively black berry and cherry fruit with a touch of vanilla wood, quite soft actually with light dry tannins, not so concentrated but has good elegant length. (Also tasted Dec 03 so average =) 89+
2004 (cask) – nice rich colour, super depth of fruit balanced by ripe coating of tannins, good length and bite; 16% alc. certainly adds weight, however, it’s integrated. Promising: 92-94
2004 (stainless vat already blended) – lovely spice and perfume, chocolate and black cherry; richness v elegance, bite and grip v finer finish. 93-95
2004 (diff vat) – similar to above but has grippier tannins and very impressive depth.
2004 blanc (fibre glass vat) – floral mineral aniseed nose, nice crisp structure and style. 85
2004 rosé (square concrete vats) – lovely aromatic nose offering lively red fruits, zingy intense mouthful and good length. 2nd cuvée – a bit leaner with crisper bite yet still has lovely fruit. Blend of – nuttier aromas with zingy fruity palate, elegant length with good concentration and extract. 89

Domaine Tempier

2004s from vat or cask:
2004 Grenache/Cinsault – very ripe and liquoricey, lacks a bit of structure and depth.
04 Petit Moulin (chalkier plot, “too many clones” and quite young vines) 90%+ Mourvèdre – nice ripe fruit, lacks middle.
04 Vigneret (very poor soils) – spicy blackberry fruit, rich fruit with good bite and structured finish.
04 (mixed soils usually used just for rosé, but “this year there was less stress on the vines so these plots should make good reds too”) – quite chocolatey and spicy oak showing solid fruit and tannins, lacks something though.
04 Cuvée spéciale (vines outside the cellar) – fresher acidity, alcohol is well integrated, grippy but not over-extracted.
04 Tourtine – the new wood rather shows itself, but the palate is a rich black fruit cocktail; spicy, firm and concentrated. Promising.
04 Cabassaou (old vines, southwest facing: “excellent terroir, exposure.”) - shows real intensity of flavour and concentration, 16% alc is surprisingly submerged under its superb depth of dark fruits, tight fine tannins to finish.
04 La Migoua (50% Mourvèdre) – very different to Cabassaou with fresher acidity, attractive depth of fruit and grip; more subtle style.

2003s from cask:
03 Cuvée classique (75% Mourvèdre + Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan) – shows some developing rustic fruit on the nose, nicely bright and spicy on the palate, good concentration and classic style. 87+
03 La Migoua (50% Mourvèdre, 30 Cinsault, 17 Grenache, 3 Syrah) – quite oaky at the moment but this should absorb into the wine, quite firm yet with fresher bite too and riper fruit finish.
03 Tourtine (80% Mourvèdre, 10 Grenache, 10 Cinsault) – enticing spicy black berry & cherry fruit, the oak is better integrated than the Migoua at this stage, shows power v finesse and tight firm long finish. 92+
03 Cabassaou (80% Mourvèdre) – cardboardy, touch of unclean wood? Bit closed up but has good grip v fruit.
2002 Cuvée classique (75% Mourvèdre) – appealing forward maturing aromas enhanced by black cherry fruit, shows reasonable depth and bite plus a touch of underlying oak and light grip. Good for 2002, balanced and drinking now. 85-87
02 La Migoua (50% Mourvèdre) – shows a touch more vanilla with higher acidity lending fresh bite and making it feel firmer, a little hard at the moment but underneath there’s enough sweet fruit.
02 Tourtine (84% Mourvèdre) – a tad reduced but it works, leading to a quite rich palate showing decent ripeness v grip and fair power on the length. 89
02 Cabassaou (picked a week later) – quite a lot of oak flavours coming through, however this shows much deeper structure and bite of tannins/acidity, tight long finish. 90
2003 rosé (50%+ Mourvèdre Gr Cin) – offers attractive creamy red fruits and reasonable weight in the mouth, tempered by a touch of fresh acidity. 85+

Tasted April 2003:

2001 blanc (Cl UB Bourboulenc) - It's the Bourboulenc that makes the difference...Round and oily, quite weighty yet juicy too, finishing with fair length thanks in part to 13.8% alc. 84+
2002 rosé - Fresh and juicy turning a bit closed with tight structure and length; definitely needs a few months to develop. serious rosé 85-87
2001 rosé - serious rosé 2.Richer and fruitier than the 2002 showing nice roundness and weight, and concentrated too. 86+
2001 Tempier Cuvée Classique (in barrel) - Rich and spicy, nice black fruits and cherries, good power and structured finish. 89
2000 Cuvée Classique - Also quite reduced but leads to a classy mouthful, 14.5% alc. isn’t really obvious as it’s very structured and lined with very concentrated fruit, combined with some fresher acidity; closed, elegant yet powerful finish too. 90
2000 La Migoua - A touch spicier with richer black plum fruit, lovely palate suffused with ripe coating tannins that add impression of sweetness, which is cut by 15% alc and fresher acidity developing to elegant finish. 92-94
2001 La Migoua (in barrel) - Lively fruit coats the mouth with lots of attractive ripe tannins to finish. 90-92
2001 La Tourtine (in barrel) - Similar depth of fruit and tannins but more intense and structured. 91-92
2000 La Tourtine - Firmer and tighter than the Migoua, pretty big and extracted but has massive liquorice fruit depth with hints of menthol too. 92-94
1982 Domaine Tempier - Getting quite brown but displays lovely complex dried raspberry and cassis fruit, rustic and sweet; mature and soft but still has some freshness and structure underneath the sweet liquorice fruit; completely delicious with real elegance and length too. Some '82 Bordeaux wouldn't be in such good condition... 95+

Domaines Ott - Château Romassan

2004 (from cask 100% Mourvèdre) – perfumed tangy black cherry/olive fruit, shows good depth v a lighter touch, subtle bite of tannins and acidity lending the framework to an elegant heart.
2003 (from cask 100% Mourvèdre) – bright cherry fruit with peppery spice and rustic touches, higher alcohol and bigger/clumsier than the 04, firm with warm finish.
2001 (60% Mourvèdre, Grenache 15%, Cinsault 15%, Syrah 10%) – a bit oxidised from being open too long, but this has quite tight and spicy black fruit, the tannins are a bit firm like bitter coffee; perhaps needs a little longer in bottle to open up.
2000 Longue Garde (60% Mourvèdre, Grenache 15%, Cinsault 15%, Syrah 10%) – Spicy liquorice and raisins with complex maturing aromas, seduces with ‘sweet’ fruit and minty notes, ripe liquorice finish bolstered by firm coating of tannins and good length; drinking now but will develop further. 90+
2004 Marcel Ott rosé (50-50 Mourvèdre Cinsault from cask, approx 14%) - Nice aromatic elegant red fruits and citrus flavours, fresh acidity and bite set against fair weight and good length. 87
04 rosé (from vat: 75% Mourvèdre) – zingy and intense, a tad reduced but offers good fruit v bite.
04 rosé (from vat: 80% Mourvèdre) – floral citrus aromas, crunchy red fruit palate displaying good depth and bite; long and elegant finish. 89+
04 rosé (from vat: 100% Mourvèdre) – weightier and creamier mouth-feel set against fresh intensity, more structured framework. 89+

Château Sainte Anne

2001 (60% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache, 20% Cinsault) – very perfumed floral raspberry, black cherry and blackcurrant with rustic edges, leathery notes on the palate yet shows very ripe tannins backed up by smoky fruit, elegant concentration and length. Drinking now but will last many years. 92+
2001 Cuvée Collection (95-98% Mourvèdre) – delicious complex nose displaying ripe plum, raspberry and cherry with mint and leather too; concentrated, ripe and rich, more animal than the regular 2001 (these wines might have a bit of brett but who cares) yet finer and rounder as well, has more substantial grip softened by subtle length of liquorice flavour. 94
2000 Collection – less advanced on the nose than the 2001 and spicier too, smoky rustic fruit to start but it closes up showing firmer structure; the solid concentration and grippy tannins do yield to ripe liquorice in the background, not very obvious on the finish. Needs time. 92-94
1999 Collection – Somewhat rustic, smoky nose but perfumed and complex with rich liquorice, damson and black cherry fruit; lovely concentration in an elegant natural way, maturing fruit and soft yet dry tannins linger very nicely. 90+
2000 tradition – offers hints of leather, liquorice, black plums and spices; quite tight and grippy mouth-feel yet is once again finely textured. (Also tasted December 03 so average =) 90
2002 tradition – farmy smoky dried fruits, complex interesting aromas with herbal minty notes too; soft, rustic and mature yet still retains depth of liquorice and chocolate fruit, very charming considering 02 was an average year. 87-89
2003 blanc (Clairette Ugni Blanc Viognier) – distinctive aromas of flowers and pears, fresh minerality in the mouth broadened out by a touch of fatter fruit, quite fine length despite low acidity. 85
2003 rosé (Grenache Cinsault Mourvèdre) – attractive creamy rasp/strawberry fruit edged with earthy spicy notes, quite weighty with light grip yet freshness too. 87
1998 Cuvée Collection - faulty bottle I hope: very volatile, acetic in the mouth. (Dec 2003)

More Ste-Anne wines here (Millésime Bio wine show 2006); and an update from the 2012 show has been posted here.

Château Pradeaux

Tasted December 2003:
1999 - Volatile but shows mature ripe black fruits with raisin edges, soft and rustic against a bit of remaining structure; acetic acid level is quite high. 82
2003 (cask sample) - very fruity and spicy, leading to attractive sweetness then dry grip and solid length. 90+
2002 rosé - note to follow. 80

Other Bandol reds & rosés

Tasted 7th October 2004 (missing notes to follow):
Château Salettes
 2000 - Displays a touch of developing dried fruits with rustic notes, quite austere palate showing good grip and decent depth of fruit. 87+
Domaine Maubernard
 1996 - Mature minty raisin and liquorice aromas, lovely rich black fruits within a solid framework of dry rounded tannins and great length. 92
Domaine de la Suffrène
 1998 - Rustic animal nose, oozes complex fruit on its lovely supple yet grippy and structured palate, seductive smoky length. 93
Domaine du Gros’Noré 2000 - see above.
Château Sainte Anne 2003 rosé - see above.

Domaine Tempier 2002 - 84
Domaine de L'Hermitage 2003 rosé - 80
Domaine de la Bégude 2003 rosé 85
Domaine des Baguiers 2003 rosé 87
Château la Rouvière 2003 rosé 87
Tasted December 2003:
Domaine de Frégate 2001 - 84+
La Roque 
(co-op winery) 2001 Grande Réserve - 84+

Domaine de l'Olivette
2003 (cask sample tasted December 2003) - note to follow. 89
2003 rosé
 - note to follow (tasted Dec 03 and 7/10/04 so average =) 87
- interesting nose of rustic black olive and herbs, quite firm and extracted set against nice maturing fruit on the finish (tasted 7/10/04). 89

Domaine Sorin
Both reds tasted December 2003:
(cask sample) - note to follow. 89

2000 - note to follow. 89

Contact details and further info from vinsdebandol.com

© All rights Richard James

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.