Bandol, one of France’s great, age-worthy red wines, is the mad king of Provencal wine that can trace its roots back to Roman times. It takes its name from a pretty coastal town on the Cote d’Azur, not quite as chic as St Tropez or Cannes perhaps, but whose harbour is still crammed with expensive white motor boats and yachts. Bandol’s vines are inland, dotted around the villages up in the hills. The wine is made mainly from Mourvedre, a grape that needs lots of heat and sun to fully ripen. Even when it does, it can be extremely tannic when young. Playing an occasional minor part in southern Rhone blends, here Mourvedre expresses all of its potential. It is definitely worth waiting for its dark, meaty beauty to emerge. It can also be very alcoholic, routinely 14.5-15 percent.
We are big fans of Chateau Vannieres age-worthy Bandol. The current incumbent, Eric Boisseaux, has the air of a 1960s playboy about him – suave, jacket, scarf, smart jeans and smart shoes: very Cote d’Azur. His grandfather bought the domaine in Bandol in 1957. The family was originally from Burgundy (they are related to the Gouges of Nuits-St–Georges). His father, Gaston, who made wine in Beaune and Bandol, died prematurely in 1968. His mother, Colette, took over and during the 1970s they baled out of Burgundy and settled full-time at Vannieres.
His Bandol Rouge is 90% Mourvedre with 10% Grenache, the Rose is made with Mourvedre (saigne method), Grenache and Cinsault (from the press). The white Bandol is made with 80% Clairette and 20% Bourboulenc.
In addition to the three Bandols, he also makes some more everyday white, rose and red. Now labelled as Vannieres with the Mont-Caume IGP (Indication Geographique Protegee – the new name for Vins de Pays). The composition of each is similar to the Bandols but for some Syrah in the red.
As if to demonstrate the ageing potential of Bandol, it is wonderful to be able to procure some mature vintages from Eric. The 1998 was a revelation when we visited and we are proud to now have some on our shelves – although possibly not indefinitely.