Bandol Wine, Terroir and Rabbit Warrens
La ville tranquille, as it is affectionately known by the locals is the glistening ruby in the diverse crown of French wine. It is found on the Mediterranean coastline of the Provence wine region, sheltered between the bustling port towns of Marseille and Toulon, and has been naturally blessed with beautiful environs. From its pine covered hills down to the sandy beaches all the way out to the azure blue ocean, Bandol displays an inspired array of wines.
Owing much of it's varied grape production to a mesoclimate created by Mediterranean influence and low surrounding mountain ranges that protect it from harsh northern winds, Bandol wine boasts the longest growing cycle in France and one of few that can produce a fully ripened Mourvèdre harvest. This is represented in the region's unique appellation laws, stating all red wines must be made using a minimum 50% of Mourvèdre, which can then be blended with any combination of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan also grown throughout the cooler, north facing vineyards in the region. Although Bandol wine has a history steeped in tradition, it has remained the least known of the five “noble wine” regions of France and Italy. Personally we believe this to be a repercussion of the growing tourist influence, creating a demand for the rosés of Bandol (now amassing the majority of producer's wines) which have begun to characterise the region. In saying that there are some fantastic rosé wines available but it is amongst the red and white wines that brilliance is to be found.
As one of the first Roman settlements to be established outside of Italy, Bandol's vineyards began life based on the great expertise accumulated from many different wine cultures, with its first plantations dating back to 600BC. Over the centuries Bandol wine became known for producing bold and powerful reds that kept incredibly well, and when taking the proximity of major ports such as Marseille into account it's not hard to see why Bandol wine bottles have been found in exotic locations such as India and Brazil dating back over 200 years. Nowadays where we are able to attribute a wines characteristics to the different environments in which the grapes are grown, Bandol wine producers are able to harness the incredibly varied terroirs across the region to create some red wines of deep complexity and flavour. From the red clay soils that make up most of Bandol's terroir are produced hearty reds with high tannins, whereas the pebbly soils to the north west produce finer, more supple wines with various ages and altitudes of the terroirs also contributing to the style of wine that is eventually made. The increasing calibre of these wines is part of the efforts to reduce the yield quantity, for which they boast some of the lowest numbers in France, and therefore improve the quality of their yields. At Pierre Hourlier Wines we have discovered this and made efforts to visit a number of fairs in the region in search of Bandol that matches our philosophies and current portfolio of wines. Our search lead us to a field of warrens...
To the north of Bandol near the village of La Cadière you will find the Domaine de la Garenne. Resting in the Saint Côme Valley, the estate was originally owned by Maître Braquéty, an avid hunter of rabbits who bought the wooded area to fuel his hobby, around 200 years ago. His heirs however, not necessarily sharing his passions, purchased the neighbouring land and in 1941, when Bandol gained its appellation status, planted the first vines of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cinsault. Covering a total of 22 hectares within the appellation the vineyards were worked until its first vinification in 1965. Having taken over from her father, the estate is now run by Béatrix de Balincourt, who has enhanced its status as a producer in leaps and bounds through finding new markets and hosting wine tastings at the Chateau Braquéty in a warm and hospitable environment. Although still a majority producer of rosé wine, the Domaine de la Garenne produces red and white wines of exceptional value.
The red wine from Domaine de la Garenne we have for sale comprises of 70% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache and 5% Carignan, in accordance with the Bandol appellation laws and so earns the right to carry the prestigious title on the bottle. It is a deep red wine containing many tannins, carrying length and a prominent after taste and yet is not as heavy as other Bandol reds. Unlike the usual feral and herby flavours common amongst neighbouring wines, this Domaine de la Garenne red has flavours of ripe red fruits and delicate aromas. These characteristics along with Bandol's trademarks make it a good wine for aging and will compliment perfectly with any grilled red meat or game dish and even with strong flavoured cheese.
Rarely in your exploration of the world of wine will you discover anything displaying the robust and complex flavours of the Mourvèdre based red wines from Bandol, yet with this example not only are you sampling a great value wine but a Bandol red with a lighter side.