Although relatively small, Bandol is easily Provence’s most recognized appellation. It’s sun-soaked southerly terraces brushed with Medditerranean breezes are ideal for cultivating Mourvèdre. Mourvèdre is a grape variety with one of the longest growing cycles, but when fully ripened has the potential to create some of the most substantial and long-lived wines on our pale blue dot.
Domaine de la Tour du Bon sits in the northeastern corner of Bandol, about five miles from the coast as the crow flies. Their 42 acres are a mix of red earth, clay, sand, and gravel that all rest atop a limestone plateau near the village of Le Brûlat. The bedrock of limestone is a key factor in producing complex wines with great length and freshness to balance out all of their sunny ripeness.
Agnès Henry is the winemaker and owner of Domaine de la Tour du Bon. Although the estate has been in the family since 1968, it is Agnès that has cemented its current acclaim. Indeed, one of the most respected French wine publications, Le guide des vins Bettane & Desseauve, places Domaine de la Tour du Bon as one of the top producers of the appellation.
Crafting wines with power and charm is not simple, nor is it easy. Some of the domaine’s success comes from incredibly low yields, on average even less than what is allowed in Burgundy’s Grands Crus. Cultivation is practicing organic and fruit is always hand-harvested. In the cellar, Agnès employs minimal intervention with the aim of producing soulful wines that speak of place.
All prices based on the purchase of a 6-pack (mix and match)
~$29 Bandol Rosé (2018)
Provence is famous for its rosé wines but many of the best come from Bandol. From vines averaging almost 40 years old, the 2018 vintage of Bandol Rosé is a blend of 50% Mourvèdre, 32% Cinsault, 10% Grenache, and 8% Clairette. The juice is obtained by direct pressing and is macerated on the skins for two hours. The wine is then raised in tank for six months before release. This is the pinnacle of rosé, brimming with floral and zesty fruit aromatics, partnered with a vigor and length that transcends the typical summertime patio sipper.
~$31 Bandol Blanc (2018)
A rare white Bandol. The blend is 75% Clairette, 15% Ugni Blanc, and 10% Rolle from very low yielding vines (30 hl/ha). The juice is obtained by direct pressing and fermentation is done at cooler temperatures before six months of aging in tank. Malolactic conversion was not allowed in 2018 to keep the wine crisp and fresh. The result is a wine fragrant with citrus and flowers. In its youth it will provide exotic fruit flavors, gaining a honeyed-waxiness as it matures. It’s full-bodied but not heavy on the palate with a mineral finish that shows a hint of fennel.
~$34 Bandol Rouge (2016)
The classic red wine of Provence, or as Agnès puts it, true “blood of the earth.” The blend is 53% Mourvèdre, 27% Grenache, 10% Cinsault, and 10% Carignan from extremely low-yielding vines (22.6 hl/ha). The fruit is 90% destemmed before fermentation with native yeasts. Aging is done in foudres for 18 months before bottling without filtering. The Grenache adds a light cherry fruit to balance out the striking power of the Mourvèdre while the small additions of Cinsault and Carignan work to bind the two main varieties. On top are complex and intoxicating aromatics. This wine practically begs to be paired with beef ribs.
~$76 “En-Sol” (IGP Méditeranée 2017)
Inspired by a meeting with Italian wine producer Elisabetta Foradori (whom you surely know by now if you read these emails), “En-Sol” is the expression of 100% Mourvèdre from ridiculously low-yielding vines (16 hl/ha) that is macerated with native yeasts in clay amphorae (tinajas from Spain) and untouched for six months. The wine is then racked to stainless steel tanks for another three months before bottling without filtering. If you have tasted Elisabetta’s amphorae-raised wines with us you’ll understand the level of freshness, finesse, and vitality that “En-Sol” offers with its own Medditerranean vibe.