Posted by: tomciocco | February 4, 2014

A VIN DE PAYS TO BEAT THE BANDOL

There is a phenomenon in the world of wine called “de-classification” and when it’s done by the right producers for the right reasons, the results when compared with the price, can be spectacular and that’s situation is exactly what we had going on at the table this evening. So just what is de-classification? It’s pretty simple actually: when the producer of a higher-level A.O.C. wine decides for any number of reasons (like over-production vis-a`-vis the production restictions for its A.O.C., or the desire to protect the higher price point of its flagship wines, etc.) a winery can decide to bottle a wine that is only just a shade less than its top cuvee`offerings under a less restrictive classification.

So what we’ve got here is a wine that is almost a Bandol, but has been “demoted” to a regionally associated vin de pays, or “country wine”. So just what is Bandol?  – well, if you don’t already know, I’m going to ‘splain…Bandol is fairly small wine appellation in the far southeastern corner of France – in Provence to be specific – fairly close to the Italian border. Bandol is a sunsplashed, heavily maritime-influenced growing region that produces both red and white wines, but it is a region that is far more well known for the former than the latter. Red Bandol must be made from at least 50% Mourvedre with the balance being rounded out by some combination of Grenache and/or Cinsault, though many are made from 100% Mourvedre (the highly celebrated house of Terrebrune who makes this wine, makes their Bandol from 85% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache and 5% Cinsault).

Mourvedre, though it is to be found growing across a wide swath of Provence and Languedoc in Mediterranean France, is almost surely a (long ago) transplant from the area near Valencia along the eastern Spanish coast where it is known as Monastrell. It is also grown in some quantities in California under the name Mataro. Typically, Mourvedre produces a deep, dark and brooding, lower acid/higher tannin wines that when not well curated can make for heavy, flabby, overly rich and syrupy-textured wines that can be a bit hard to drink. The wines from the Delille family/Terrebrune are anything but however, offering a remarkably ethereal, fresh and elegant expression of this often thick and overly imposing wine. And the fact that this very affordable wine can produce the same effect as their full-fledged Bandol is particularly admirable.

I served this seriously over-achieving wine (I mean this only in the best of terms) with a first course of toasts spread with a puree` of tuna, olives, chick peas, olive oil, lemon juice and zest followed by a main course of fricadelles d’agneau (the fancy French term for lamb burgers) with garlic, egg, bread, tarragon, thyme and rosemary with a side dish of orange juice braised/glazed carrots with parsley.

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Delille Vin de Pays du Mont Caume “Terre d’Ombre” 2010

Slightly cloudy, just translucent, blackish purple/garnet color. Very pretty aromas of dried cherries, strawberry, mulberry, roasted herbs, sea spray, lavender, tar and black tea. The wine is medium in weight, with a great balance between discreet but very fresh acidity and very smooth and soft tannins with decidedly elegant flavors of Cornelian cherry, fig paste, black currants, cinnamon, fresh spearmint, and hints of black pepper. The wine finishes with a clean but complex bittersweet chocolate character. A wine that manages to be simultaneously intensely flavorful and very light on its feet. 

 

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