It’s not a big region. It’s a sun-bleached, craggy, rocky patch of earth with gnarly, baked greenery, squinting at the breezy, briny Mediterranean sea. It’s just down the road from Marseille, France’s second largest city, and ancient market port, and smack dab in the middle of the countless thirsty seaside resort towns that line the cliffs and beaches. These various factors conspire to make Bandol both a bit rarer as well as a bit pricier than almost all of what comes out of Languedoc to the west, and with the exception of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and a few others, most of the Rhone’s production to the north. So for good or ill, Bandol is not now, and never has been a household name wine, and everything seems to wants to keep it that way.
Unlike Languedoc and Rhone wines, Bandol red and rose` wines (white is made too, but that’s another post) are made from 50% to up to 100% Mourvedre, with the balance usually filled out by Grenache and Cinsault, though very small amounts of Syrah and Carignan can be used as well. One reason for this heavy relience on Mourvedre is one of pure practicality. Mourvedre so craves the hottest sun, and it ripens so late (sometimes as late as the second week in October!), that there are very few regions that can fully and reliably mature Mourvedre enough to make it its signature variety. Bandol can, and so it does.
Despite the hot, maritime climate from which they spring, Bandols work best with “cold weather” or at least very bold and hearty food. Now since it’s still pretty warm, I went the “hearty” route. Had it been November, I’d have made a Daube Provencal and have been done with it, but it’s not…
Near where Jen works in Paterson, NJ, there is a large Turkish community, and in that section of town, there’s a really boss Turkish food shoppe called Akmarket – check it We had been there a week or so ago, and when we go, we stock up. Some of what was left (in this case in the freezer) from that trip fell together perfectly on a day when time was bit short…They sell these plastic tubs of frozen sigara boregi (thin “cigars” of phyllo enclosing minted cheese) that just need to be deep fried for 3 or 4 minutes, and then thrown on top of a bed of lettuce, appetizer done. In the back of the market they have a full service halal butcher that makes all manner of kebabs, adana, sausages, etc. to cook at home. I had grabbed a few dozen of their small, spiced minced lamb sausages…So, I mixed up some hummus, grilled off the sausages, spun the hummus out onto plates, sausages on top – pita (no Turkish pide left in the freeze, bummer) and olives…Dinner.
Very deep vermillion/garnet color. Bold but refined nose of dried fruit, smoky meat juices, juniper berries, cloves, cocoa, and just a kiss of high quality oak notes. The palate is big and smooth, but powerful with still notable tannins and focused and concentrated flavors of blackstrap molasses, and blackberry, black cherry, and strawberry fruit. Breaks up a bit short at the finish, but all in all, represents the more elegant side of red Bandol.