Bandol is the dark horse of Provençe. This Appellation in the department of Var in the region of Provençe-Alpes-Côte d’Azur proudly hangs their hat on red wine. They bravely do this in Provençe, the southeastern region of France where wines are overwhelmingly pink. The appellation is named for the city of Bandol, a port city built around a military fort, founded in 1595, but the Phoenicians were making wine here, 2,500 years ago, even before the Roman arrived.
Provençe itself is likely the oldest wine region in France and 90% of the wine made here is rosé. Bandol is one of the few places within the region where red wine is the standard and it is one of the rare places in France where Mouvèdre can fully ripen.
This month the French #Winophiles (a group of wine writers who gather to explore French wines each month), are eshewing the pink and focusing on the elusive red wines of Provençe.
Led by Payal of Keep the Peas, we have each found a wine or two share with you. You can read Payal’s invitation post here.
We will gather to share our findings on Saturday February 20th on Twitter. You can join us and share your favorite red wine from Provençe by using and following the hashtag #Winophiles at 8 am PST that day.
Scroll to the bottom, to find links to the other articles written by the #Winophiles.
The landscape and climate of Bandol
The region of Bandol is sheltered by the Massif of Sainte Baume to the north and the vineyards cascade down on terraces from the mountain to the sea. The area is a vast amphitheater open to the Mediterranean Sea.
The soils here are mostly limestone that can be very pebbly. In some areas you find sandy marls and sandstones.
It is protected from the cold winds, but not as protected from developers who long to scoop up property in this region that boasts 300 hours of average sunshine so close to the Mediterranean. We give thanks to those who stand their ground and continue to make wine, regardless of the risks.
The Bandol Appellation
The Bandol Appellation name is reserved for still wines in white, red, and rosé. This appellation was formed in 1941.
Mouvèdre leads the red wines and is required to be 50-95% of the blend to be labeled Bandol Rouge. The remaining of the blend is Grenache and Cinsault and in some cases Carignan and Syrah. These red wines must be aged for at least 18 months in barrel or cask.
Some other Bandol AOC regulations (not all but a few)
- Vine density has a minimum of 5,000 vines per hectare and the gap between the rows cannot be more than 2.5 meters.
- Pruning regulations are very specific and vines must be pruned before May 1st.
- There are specific trellising rules as well as rules for the percentage of dead or missing vines.
- Vines must be a minimum of 8 years old before the fruit can be used in a red wine that is labeled with the AOC.
Yields are limited to 40 hectoliters per hectare (although honestly, most growers reduce that to 35)
Château Sainte Anne
This Domaine is managed by Françoise Dutheil and her son Jean-Baptiste. This is a 5th generation winery and they were one of the pioneers in the creation of the Bandol Appellation.
This Domaine was also at the forefront of the Association des Vins Naturels in the late 1970s. It was during this period, that Château Sainte Anne became certified organic.
This is a family-run estate whose location is part of a micro-climate that allows them to grow on terraces without having their vines punished by the intense summer heat. Nights here are cool in summer due to the Le Gros Cerveau peak. The sea breezes and the cold air here keep the maturation long and slow.
The 15-hectare vineyard is set on terraces that are called “restanques” locally and the elevation runs from 120-200 meters.
Soils here are calcareous sandstone derivatives with clay and thin strips of white sand. The vines are en gobelet (head-pruned with no trellising)
The vineyard itself is on the edge of Sainte Anne D’Evenos and the edge of the Bandol Appellation. This is the northeast part of the Bandol AOC. The vineyard is partially within the Bandol appellation and part is in the Côtes de Provençe appellation.
Château Ste. Anne 2016 Bandol
This Bandol Rouge is a blend of 60% Mourvèdre, 20% Cinsault, and 20% Grenache from vines that are between 30 and 55 years old.
The vineyard is organically farmed and hand-harvested. Destemmed grapes are fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeast and hand punch downs. then aged for 18-24 months in foudres. Unfined and unfiltered a minimal amount of SO2 is added.
This wine weighs in at 13% abv due to the microclimate. Typically Bandol Rouge on south-facing slopes can run 14.5%.
Deep in color, the nose grew in intensity over the evening. Dried herbs, smoke, and hay melded with deep tart black fruit, with licorice, leather, grilled meat, and a note of barnyard.
On the palate, it is dry with medium acid and medium/high tannins that are elegant. Red currant, dried herbs, and blackberries roll about in your mouth.
There is a wildness to this wine, but wildness contained and restrained elegantly. Over the course of the evening, it opened and filled out, still elegant but now reclined and more expansive.
Pairing this Bandol Rouge with a Valentine’s Dinner
We did all of our Valentine’s pairings last week, getting them shot and out with recipes, and quite honestly, we needed a bit of a break from all the planning and pairing. I knew I wanted red meat with this Bandol Rouge and a generous amount of herbs de Provençe. Then my best friend surprised me with Valentine’s Dinner for Michael and I.
Steak and Lobster, scalloped potatoes, and more came frozen and ready to cook, I added a salad and roasted carrots, and the steaks got a healthy dose of Herbs de Provençe. I decided to do a dessert pairing and threw together a lavender blueberry ice cream on some molten chocolate cakes to tie in the lavender of Provençe.
This elegant Bandol wine paired beautifully with everything. It was wonderful with the steaks and carrots as expected. I was sure that I shouldn’t try a bite of the lobster with it, that it would be terrible. I tried anyway, and it was fine! Not spectacular, but the wine did not clash with the lobster as I had expected.
With the dessert I found that it melded gloriously with the cake, and highlighted the notes of the lavender and even the blueberries.
We so often think of Provençe and sun, of sand and lavender fields and pale pink wines. Bandol Rouge is a wine that expresses the depth of the landscape here, a wine that can warm you on a cold winter’s evening. This is the wine of the non-tourist season in Provençe, when the locals can breathe and the traffic is lighter. This other side of Provençe is delightful.
Reds of Provençe with the French #Winophiles
My colleagues, writers with the French #Winophiles have rounded up a variety of red wines from Provençe. Read on to explore more of the wines of this region.
- Camilla from https://culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.com/ is presenting “Provençal Pork Stew + Clos Cibonne Cuvee Speciale Rouge 2019”
- Wendy from https://adayinthelifeonthefarm.blogspot.com/ shares “Beef Daube Provencal with a Bandol Rouge”
- Lynn over at https://savortheharvest.com/ has for us “Winning Red Wines from Provence with Lamb Meatballs: Domaine Hauvette and Clos Cibonne”
- Susannah from https://avvinare.com/ is telling us how “Beef stew and A Glass of Bandol Rouge Warms the Heart”
- Jeff at https://foodwineclick.com/ shares some “Provençal Memories and Mas de Gourgonnier Rouge”
- Gwendolyn at http://winepredator.com tells us of “The Magique of Provence
- Cathie with https://sidehustlewino.com/ shares “Off the Beaten Path in Provence”
- Mel at https://winingwithmel.com shares “Roses are red? Love for Provences big red wines and Chateau Calissanne”
Sources & Resources
- Vins de Bandol http://www.vinsdebandol.com/en/geography.cfm
- Vins de Provence https://www.vinsdeprovence.com/en
- Maison de Vines de Bandol L’oenotheque http://www.maisondesvins-bandol.com/en/home.cfm
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.