The ICC group met on Thursday 5th February to taste wines based on Mourvèdre (or its Spanish – and original? – name: Monastrell) – focusing on Bandol.  We tasted 6 – and apart from the proportions noted below the wines are all Mourvèdre.

Here are my notes:

CHÂTEAU PRADEAUX BANDOL ROSÉ 2010    – 12½% (Leon Stolarski Fine Wines [LSFW] – £18)
This has 45% Cinsault in it. An amazing bright muted orange rather than pink colour. Strawberry notes on the nose, then floral and herby hints which keep developing. Firm strawberry flavours on the palate with sourness counterpointing the sweetness, herbal hints and a food-friendly serious structure of acidity and a hint of tannin. A wonderfully vinous Rosé, with a lifted and intricate finish. Just lovely!
Quality: 17/20   Value: 16/20

SPICE ROUTE MOURVÈDRE 2011 Swartland, S. Africa  – 14½% (Co-Op – £9)
A pungent , farmyard start and then plum and tobacco on the nose. Plum and woody palate with mounting vanilla influence, which overtakes the fruit and leads to an early tannic finish. A cheap and simple package.
Quality: 12/20   Value: 14/20

ALTOS DEL CUADRADO 2010 Jumilla DO, Spain – 13½% (Ocado – £15)
This has a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in it. Again a farmyard start, but then shot through with red fruit, then a vanilla effect which is better balanced than the previous wine. Later liquorice and fennel surface. The palate has initial creaminess and then leathery tannins with a hint of spice, lifting acidity helps the wine with suppleness and length. Unmistakably Spanish take on the grape and a little young.
Quality: 15/20 Value: 15/20

DOMAINE TRELOAR “MOTUS” 2010 Côtes du Roussillon – 14½% (LSFW – £15)
Only 8% Grenache in this. Blackberry fruit and then an amazing range of non-fruit flavour flavours: damp leaves, meat, leather, spices…. The palate has dark fruit, well balanced grip of tannic warmth and acidity and a lovely, bitter-tinged, dried herbs  finish. Very good!
Quality: 16/20 Value: 16/20

DOMAINE BUNAN BANDOL 2009– 15% (M&S – £15)
About 20% Grenache and 10% Syrah in this wine. Pungent but a quite restrained nose, farmyard, dried fruit and a slightly sharp – balsamic – hint. Palate is sweet fruit and herby tannins, rather rich and one-note, as if made-to-drink. I suppose this is made for a retail price point at M&S and lacks the subtlety and range of the same grower’s Château La Rouvière. A slightly ponderous, but cheap, version of real Bandol though.
Quality: 15/20 Value: 15/20

CHÂTEAU PRADEAUX BANDOL 2006    – 13½% (LSFW – £23)
Only 5% Grenache in this. At first the nose is pungent with farmyard smell, then more damp forest and then higher notes of baking spice, floral hints and even marmalade (?). The nose is so eventful and complex one delays actually tasting the wine. The palate has dry tannins with a lifting acidity and a current of blackberry fruit and a kirsch tinge. Again developing and satisfying, a wine one could spend time with – lovely!
Quality: 18/20   Value: 16/20

A very interesting tasting, from which Leon Stolarski emerges as the hero. Wonderfully pitched wines from him with real character and pleasure, and – reading his notes now – very fairly presented. The group agreed, with most people choosing a Pradeaux (Rosé or Rouge) as top. But we also voted on the best of the three £15 wines (3rd, 4th and 5th served) and the Roussillon: Motus obtained 76% of the votes!

Overall it’s clear that the better wines had some complexity and development in them, changing and evolving new threads of flavour or aroma as time passed. I’ve been seeking Southern Rhone wines with higher proportions of Mourvèdre in the blend for some time – but the final wine gave more light and shade than most comparably priced Chateauneuf… Food for thought!

Until next time…