A Provence Bandol

If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the world famous Provence region in southeastern France. You may even find a bargain wine in this sun-drenched ideal tourist location, marred only by the number of tourists. I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour of this French candidate for paradise in which we review a local red wine based on the red Mourvèdre grape.

Among France’s eleven wine-growing regions Provence ranks ninth in acreage if you include the island of Corsica, which most people do in spite of their considerable differences. Provence is synonymous with rosé wine, and although its percentage is declining, happily according to many wine lovers. Over 50% of Provence wine is rosé, or as some might say, pink. Many of its wines are pink and flabby, but others are not. The region is home to dozens of grape varieties, often not found elsewhere. With an average of three thousand hours of sun a year, a lot of Provence wines taste baked.

One secret to making fine tasting wine is limiting its production. The Bandol AOC reviewed below and its high-quality neighbors are capped by law at 180 cases per acre (40 hectoliters per hectare). In this area growers could generate at least twice as much output, almost without trying. But any gains in quantity would be lost in quality. Voilà. Limiting Corsica’s wine output has helped reduce Europe’s famous, or rather infamous, wine lake.

While there is no shortage of great places to visit in Provence, let’s start by honoring this wine’s home town, Bandol, population eight thousand. It’s right on the coast, about thirty five miles (fifty five kilometers) southeast of Marseille and has become quite a tourist attraction. Bandol’s port has a capacity of fifteen hundred sailing vessels and that includes a lot of yachts. It is quite a center for scuba diving and deep-sea fishing. In high season unless you love crowds you are better off visiting the vineyards right outside town.

For a change of pace go about four miles (six kilometers) north of Bandol to La Cadiere d’Azur, a medieval village of about three thousand perched on a hilltop overlooking the vineyards. Vincent Van Gogh was here. When you see it you’ll know why.

Before reviewing the Bandol wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.
Start with Caviar d’Aubergines (Egglant Purée).
For your second course savor Poisson aux Herbes de Provence (Fish with Provence Herbs).
And as dessert indulge yourself with Tarte aux Noix (Walnut and Honey Tart).

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed
Domaine Le Galantin Bandol Rouge 2005 14.0% about $20.00

Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. Description Bandol, the most serious wine of Provence, [is] typically a deep-flavoured, lush red blend dominated by the Mourvèdre grape. Tasting Note (Jancis Robinson, Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition, 2006) This version is mostly Mourvèdre with a touch of Grenache for balance. Its lovely collection of aromas include cherry, anise, marzipan, and garrigue. And now for my review.

Before the first meal I sipped some of this wine. It was dark, fruity, powerful, and long. You know that the wine is present. The first meal was delicatessen-made thin strips of beef with sliced vegetables. I added rice and a Thai hot sauce. The wine remained long and strong with dark chocolate. I have the feeling that it could hold up to anything. I am getting an image: people sitting around a campfire devouring raw or scarcely cooked bear meat – I have no idea what bear meat tastes like but I know this Bandol could handle it. This is not a wine for watercress sandwiches – with or without the crusts. I liked the wine with a cocoa strudel. The chocolate of the wine accompanied the "chocolate" of the cake. There was, however, a discordant note, I’ll talk about it in the next round.

The second tasting was with broiled beef ribs accompanied by jerk sauce, barbecued red skin potatoes, and commercial grilled eggplant. The wine was thick and mouthfilling, but there was something about its acidity that was not quite right, let’s not mince words; it was unpleasant. This also happened with the first meal. It may be hard to believe but swirling the glass vigorously removed this secondary defect. In the present series of reviews covering more than sixty wines this is the first time that I have encountered such a problem.

The final meal consisted of a pan-fried lamb chop that had been marinated in olive oil, garlic, and sliced red onion plus an artichoke, garlic, and tomato salsa and corn on the cob. The wine was full and long brimming with chocolate and to a lesser extent tobacco. The defect is long gone and the wine was excellent. As strong as it was the Bandol accompanied rather than overpowered the subtle meat. Jancis Robinson was right, who am I to doubt her, I tasted garrigue, Mediterranean spices.

The first cheese pairing was with a mild-tasting Italian Pecorino Fruilano, which somehow cut across the wine. It surprised me that such a weak cheese could denature such a strong wine. The Bandol was able to keep its taste when paired with the more flavorful Dutch Edam. I tasted deep chocolate.

Final verdict. This wine is a winner. I confess that I don’t understand fully the problem with the defect. But I am more than willing to take the chance on it again. However, just between you and me, I won’t waste it on cheese pairings.

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About The Author, Levi Reiss
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but prefers drinking fine wine with the right foods. He teaches computer classes at an Ontario French-language college. His wine websites are www.theworldwidewine.com and http://www.theitalianwineconnection.com . Visit his Italian travel website at www.travelitalytravel.com.