Epic Bandol Tasting with the Wine Guild of Charlottesville

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Tasted April 30, 2009 by Wine Guild of Charlottesville with 777 views


Our first official Fifth Wednesday special tasting was a broad range of Bandol and Provencal wines. These wines generally performed well, and getting the chance to taste so many side by side was truly an amazing experience for all.

Flight 1 (14 notes)

2007 Château de Roquefort Côtes de Provence Les Genêts France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
Think coastal Chablis or more specifically, Saint Bris. No, really! Crisp, Dry with tight, precise fruit fattening out a long finish of mineraly lemons only at times brightening to grapefruit (a flavor we thought must be from Sauv Blanc and were surprised to find none in the blend, 60% Clairette, 35% Rolle & 5% Ugni Blanc) all of which is very understated and integrated in the purity of this delightful white wine. To put it short, tart and clean with a great back bone of acid and fruit enjoyable from cocktails to Frenchy fish dishes. A new favorite white of mine and one of the two most popular of the evening's chilled wines.
2007 Domaine du Bagnol Bandol Blanc France, Provence, Bandol
"Cassis produces aromatic, flavoursome whites that are the perfect foil to fruits de mer, as fresh as they can be." This wine is a rare and special thing and I feel, like an intricate ornamentation on a grand cathedral, that it was lost in the grandness of this tasting. I loved this wine but I understand that it is a wine that needs context. As I explained to many last night, this is not a cocktail wine and therefore does not show powerfully on its own in a tasting setting. Get a bottle, just one to try the experiment (you can go back for more latter), the next time you grill fish with herbs and garlic or sear fish in a pan with garlic, good olive oil, fennel seed and tomatoes or try any Mediterranean light meal try it with this wine. Then you will say, 'ah yes, now I grasp the wonderful subtlety, this beautiful detail'. The almost saline minerality and delicate crisp fruit will transport you to a small coastal village every time. The Bagnol is an excellent example of good Cassis white wine and a must have for Coastal and Island junkies who are doomed to vacation this summer in their own backyard. alas...
2007 Château Les Valentines Côtes de Provence Rosé France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
At first I thought there was some Sauv Blanc in this Rose, it had that grassy, light bell pepper and slightly tropical/passion fruit thing going on delicately in the front and mid palate. A very light Rose and frankly based on the supper star wines coming from this estate I was hoping for a bit more. A perfectly fine Rose and if you liked it, it is listed at half price from the distributor and decent at the price but I have two or three other Provence Rose's up my sleeve for this summer that I like better at this price point that we will send out as they come in. So if you can, hold on a bit.
2007 Domaines Ott Côtes de Provence Rosé France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
Now this one worked. This wine was to Rose what the Cassis was to white wine. A very light and delicate wine with a gorgeous light pink-gray color in the glass. Again this Rose is very much a food wine and so classic to the region. I would recommend the same menu of light Med. style fish dishes and herbed goat cheeses. The delicate strawberry fruit notes are balanced by that dry seltzer mineral quality; I am certain the wine maker intends for this wine to be had with food and so it must.
2007 Château de Pibarnon Bandol Rosé France, Provence, Bandol
Far and away the top chilled wine of the evening. I was so ticked off that I could only find one Bandol Rose for this night but I was ecstatic that it was this wine. I must confess that I have purchased and enjoyed two or three bottles this year already and it has been a show stopper for everyone I have opened it for, most importantly for myself. The Pibarnon is a must have for fine White and Rose lovers, as it really is an epic bottling (I have already tried the Tempier Rose this year - not as good, but still awesome). A beautiful sunset color with fatness of fruit and a long, long finish. The wine is weighty with unique Bandol Rose flavors that somehow remind me of peaches without tasting peachy at all. In short, my only descriptors can be that it is a fine wine with great length and complexity.
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2007 Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux-de-Provence France, Provence, Les Baux-de-Provence
What a way to start this epic red lineup! 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Carignan, 20% Grenache, and 9% Syrah...and it held its own to the very end up against the following onslaught of monster wines. The color is very dark bluish-red, intimating already that it doesn't fool around. Aromas of brambly fruit like blackberries and raspberries covered the up-front, which soon took a backseat a to sappy, extracted, rustic middle and a mildly acidic (and impressively composed) finish. Little to no tannic bite; what grip there was, was rather pliable and served mainly to keep everything intact for a long finish. What was most impressive, though, as noted above, was the ability of this inexpensive bottle to hang with the big boys. After making my way through the rest of the lineup, I went back to this several times, and each time, it showed great poise, strength and depth. A steal!
2006 Domaine du Dragon Côtes de Provence Cuvée St. Michel France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
Several days earlier, I tried this wine with Kevin and we were both thoroughly convinced that it was, if not all, then almost all Mourvedre. It had that classic garrigue character that the grape (when grown in provence) is famous for, and a dusty, yet rich and inviting, aura that screamed Bandol. Funny, then, to find out that there's not a drop of Mourvedre in it! Instead, it's almost equal parts Cabernet and Syrah. Nonetheless, it is a very impressive wine, with great balance and an electric nerve that makes me think it will only get better over the next 5 years. Huge dark fruit follows through from the start, with that dusty garrigue note and distinct blueberries to finish. A touch of used oak softens it up, but that electricity is what makes this wine great.
2006 La Bastide Blanche Bandol France, Provence, Bandol
After being floored by the 2004 version of this wine at our Potomac tasting last year (on South Street Inn's veranda), I had high expectations, and this simply did not live up to them. Now, granted, it certainly got better by the time the night was over, but it just didn't seem to have that classic structure and depth that the '04 had in spades. I certainly wouldn't turn it down if someone pushed a glass my way, but it seemed a bit one-dimensional. All in all, it was just well-made, but unexceptional wine.
2005 La Bastide Blanche Bandol Cuvée Fontanéou France, Provence, Bandol
Talk about a sea change---same producer, different year, select grapes---magic! This was one of my top picks of the night (for the money, it's at the top). Huge, complex, leaping out of the glass with classic Mourvedre aromas of...sage, rosemary, graphite, dry earth, hot stones, grilled meat, old caves, must, cassis, figs...I could go on. There's so much for everyone in this wine, and what's more, it really didn't have any discernible flaws on the palate. The mouthfeel and weight was almost overwhelming, with bright acidity and grippy tannins to balance the big fruit. And while it's a very precise, delineated wine, it is by no means squeaky clean---there's plenty of rustic funk, especially on the nose. For me, this is the total package. Value of the night, hands down!
2006 Château de Pibarnon Bandol Les Restanques de Pibarnon France, Provence, Bandol
This was a perfect bellwether for the red lineup: even though it was opened early and decanted, this wine underwent changes over the course of the evening that were simply astounding. At first, it was all nerve and alcohol. Bright, acidic, hot, jumpy. However, by the second bottle, around 7:00, it started to suddenly blossom into a calmer, more focused wine. The alcohol hotness disappeared, and the nervy acidity softened up considerably. In addition, there developed a very clean-cut, precise profile with bright fruit, more new oak than the other wines, and clear potential. Definitely the cleanest of the night, not displaying any of the funky earthy barnyard qualities.
2003 Château Pradeaux Bandol France, Provence, Bandol
An instant classic! Pradeaux is one of the major, well-known houses in Bandol, up there with Tempier, et al. This wine is precisely why that's the case...and the nose/palate run the gamut in terms of what you tend to expect from "typical" great Bandol. More than anything else, there is the gaminess: grilled animal with tons of Provençal herbs and black pepper and savory grittiness with a nice smokiness in the background. I can think of few wines that would better complement grilled red meat (especially lamb, as we found out). Beyond the grilled meat, there were little pockets of interest all over...like tart berries, raisins/prunes, fresh salami, barnyard funk, a little oak, and this character that I can only describe as "lush forest in the springtime". All of this played back and forth with the bright acidity and big round tannins (both of which will help this wine age for 20 years), and it wrapped up with a long, tight finish. It was a pleasure to get to try this wine right now, but even at 6 years from the vat, I think it's still young. Buy some, lay it down, forget about it for a decade...you will thank yourself.
2001 Domaines Ott Bandol France, Provence, Bandol
When Will opened this up Wednesday morning, he said that it was all black Niçoise olives. By the time the rest of us got to it, it was all dried fruit---like a port without the sweetness...or the depth. This may have once been a powerful, interesting wine, but it simply has not fared well if it was. We kept going back to it, giving it chance after chance...and while it's certainly a big beast, it's not worth the price tag as far as I'm concerned.
2004 Château Simone Palette France, Provence, Palette
Grenache and Mourvèdre make up 60% of the red cuvée. The remainder is a rag tag collection of other varieties, including the usual suspects; Syrah, Cinsaut, Carignan, for instance, but also some rarities such as Castet and Manosquin. This wine showed incredible class and depth, but was wound up tighter than a drum despite having been open for 8 hours prior to the tasting. It needs lots of time in the cellar (5+ years), but will certainly reward those with patience -- if you can wait that long, this will be the wine of the night.
2004 Château de Roquefort Côtes de Provence Rubrum Obscurum France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
For current consumption, this was the wine of the night for me. The Rubrum Obscurum is composed of 70% Grenache, with the remainder split evenly between Mourvedre and Carignan. Big and juicy on the nose, this had a broad, deep and complete palate with chocolately notes and a rich finish. This can be joyfully consumed now or over the next 10 years.
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