Archives for posts with tag: Bandol

On Monday February 4th the WING Tutored Tasting Group met for a Madiran Tasting, led by Laurie and showing wines from Domaine Pichard. The featured wines were their Traditional Cuvée from 2007 – 2011 and a special Cuvée from 2004: “Auguste Vigneau”.

Madiran is a wine area in South-West France, North of Pau and about 60 miles East, inland, from the Atlantic Ocean. It is approximately a 25 mile sided square, just South of the Armagnac area and comprises 38  communes and straddles 3 departments (Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées & Pyrénées-Atlantiques). A village in the centre of the area gives Madiran its name, but is the appellation for red wines only – whites from exactly the same area are called Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.


The climate is warm and dry, although less so than further inland, in Gaillac for example. The area is made up of five large, parallel ridges that run roughly north-south, marking the transition between the foothills of the Pyrenees and the Landes, the forested coastal plains just south of Bordeaux. The most common soils here are limestone-rich clay (more to the West, producing robust long lived wines) and relatively free-draining silts, rich in minerals, along the valleys – giving supple more complex wines. Soils often studded with pebbles laced with iron and manganese oxide, which brings a reddish tinge to some vineyards, this soil is more to the East giving (relatively) more delicate wines.  The main river here is the Adour, which lies just to the east of Madiran village. The area has fairly high rainfall, mainly in in the spring, a hot summer, an autumn of still warm days combined with ideal cool nights creating a thermal variation favouring a full maturity of the tannins.

And tannins are the real story here – the main grape is aptly-named Tannat. It has to be 60% or more and it’s main blending partner is Cabernet Franc, although Cabernet Sauvignon and Fer Servadou are used… Ripe Tannat gives big tannic wines that take from 6 to 15 years to come round, and counterpointing or taming the tannins are the job of the winemaker. Small wonder the the practice of micro-oxygenation started here, although it has had more notable (and controversial) use in Bordeaux!

The Estate we tasted was Domaine Pichard – 12 ha (11 red) of vines situated in Soublecause in the East of the area. The soil here is quartz and clay studded with lydiene pebbles. The Estate produces structured long-lasting wines. Auguste Vigneau and then his nephew René Touchouere built up the Domaine from 1955 to 2005 but then sold to Jean Sentilles and his brother-in-law Rod Cork (a Lancastrian living in Paris). They modernised the winery with new foudres and barriques, and replanted some of the vines.

We tasted the last vintage made by René Touchouere – the 2004 Cuvée “Auguste Vigneau”, and a succession of vintages of the new regime: 2007-2011.

Here are my notes:


2004 Cuvée Auguste Vigneau  (13.5%)
This is  70% Tannat; 25% Cabernet Franc & 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.
The nose has a brackish quality with some hints of damson fruit, quite heavy… The palate has a sustained line of prominent tannins, not too hard but overpowering any fruit, there is a grainy quality and rather a dull finish suggesting the wine is a little too old.

2007 Cuvée Tradition   (13.5%)
This, and all the following wines, are more or less 60% Tannat / 40% Cab. Franc.
This nose is rather closed only revealing some slightly greenish plum notes later. The tannic “hit” of this wine is more striking but less enduring – forming a peak in the early-mid palate. This has higher acidity and is much fresher than the previous wine.

2008 Cuvée Tradition   (14%)
This has a pungent, vegetal, first nose with a vague dried fruit hint emerging. This is smoother and has acidity and tannins balanced and “smoothed out”. Relatively silky but still a big concentrated wine. Quite satisfying.

2009 Cuvée Tradition    (14.5%)
More open nose with a heavy floral perfume and then a prune note. Sweet (slightly over-ripe?) fruit then a massive tannic hit that persists into the rather harsh finish. This is big and seems much too young, but will any fruit disappear before the tannins soften? Judging by this very hot year’s performance in other areas – maybe!

2010 Cuvée Tradition   (14.5%)
Dark fruit on the nose and some floral notes. Good fresh acidity in a line right to the finish, balancing the high levels of  relatively supple tannin.  The is better integrated, firm but enjoyable and hinting strongly at food. Good – my favourite!

2011 Cuvée Tradition   (14%)
A fruitier nose leading to supple but less fresh palate. This is a slightly lighter style than all the rest, perhaps reflecting a difficult year – but still unresolved  and not that successful.

These are all really (I mean really!) tannic wines, but with the profile of the tannins differing between the wines. Some show the tannins throughout; some early and dropping off; some mounting towards the finish… For me the more successful wines (2008 & 2010) cry out for rich Gascony cuisine, and would be enjoyable in that setting – but otherwise they are too much for most occasions. An interesting venture into dark brooding wines though…

À Bientôt

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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.

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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…

Mourvèdre is the French (and Catalan) name for the Spanish grape Monastrell. The grape is recorded near Valencia in the 13th Century, and probably originates there.

It is, almost totally, a Mediterranean grape, grown along the East Coast of Spain, and the Mediterranean side of Rousillon, Languedoc and Provence.

The world total production of Mourvèdre is somewhere between that of Riesling and that of Pinot Noir. It seems rather less because most of it – 84% – is grown in Spain as Monastrell. It is the main grape in the Spanish DOs of: Valencia, Almansa, Alicante, Yecla and (most familiarly) Jumilla. Elsewhere it is usually blended.

The grape is declining in Spain, whereas it is increasingly planted in France. Here it has grown ten-fold in the last fifty years and France now accounts for 14% of the world plantings.

The New World only accounts for about 2% of the World’s total, principally in Australia (where it is sometimes known by another name of Catalan origin: Mataro) but also in California, Washington and South Africa. In these place one can find some varietal wines but by far the majority are so-called GSM blends (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre), copying famous Southern Rhone styles.

Provence provides the most famous French Mourvèdre-based wines in the form of Bandol. Here Mourvèdre has to be over 50% of the blend in red wines – and is usually over 80%, backed by Grenache or Cinsault and limited amounts of Carignan and/or Syrah.

Bandol is a coastal Village in the Department of Var, where Mourvèdre is increasingly planted and now accounts for 3% of the World’s total, about a quarter of that in the Bandol AC.

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The grape is late ripening and likes very warm, but not very dry, breezy, low-altitude plantings with some moisture benefit (clay in the soil, or proximity to the sea) – accounting for its preponderance around the Mediterranean rim.

It has high fragrance: violet, blueberry, blackberry and plum fruit and “meaty” or “gamey” notes. Other notes can include black pepper, tarragon, thyme and other dried herbs – hints of smoke, mocha or chocolate. The wine can produce high alcohol and high tannin wines suitable for aging. When young it can have excessive (reductive or oxygen-starved) sulphury, farmyard notes.

Much of French Mourvèdre’s use is as a minor grape across Southern Rhone and Languedoc reds. Varietal examples are much more likely in Provence and Roussillon… notably of course – in Bandol.

Bandol AC covers a South facing natural amphitheatre stretching from the peaks of the Massif de la Sante-Baume down to the shore of the old fishing village of Bandol itself. The area enjoys 3,000 hours of sunshine a year! The appellation area encompasses eight communes: Bandol, La Cadière d’Azur, Saint-Cyr-sur-mer, Le Castellet, Le Beausset, Ollioules and Sanary

The vines are planted on terraces called “restanqes” on approximately 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres). Approximately two thirds is planted with Mourvèdre, most of the rest with Cinsault, Grenache, Carignan and Syrah and a little (maybe 5%) with white grapes:- Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc and Ugni Blanc. About 70% of the production is red, most of the rest is Rosé.

The soils in the appellation area are mainly limestone and very pebbly, with sandy marls, sandstone, red or white limestone, clay and sand in places. The main characteristic of the Bandol appellation is the stone-like aridity and low fertility of well-drained, highly calcareous soils. To preserve this character, Bandol appellation area rules only allow plots of land situated on hillsides. The natural dryness of the soils is balanced by the humidity of the air from the sea and by rainfall (600mm/yr on average); the rainfall amount is low, yet high enough to compensate for the water deficit during summer.

While the authorized yield is 40 hectolitres per hectare, good growers often try to keep it within lower yields (25 to 30 hl), so as to express its essence.

For this month’s tasting we will try 6 based wines starting with a Bandol Rosé, red examples from South Africa, Roussillon and Jumilla and 2 Bandols.

One would expect the non-Bandol reds to major on the grape’s juicy berry-fruit elements while the Bandols emphasise the tannins, fragrance and gamey qualities. We will see – there will be a report here in 3 or 4 days.

Until then….

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