In Provence, old-timers say that Mourvèdre, much like man, is happiest when it can see the sea. It’s not that the grape is demanding about the view from its perch, but rather that to face the sea is to be sheltered from the often harsh and hot winds of the mistral. Offering Mourvèdre such prime real estate speaks volumes on its value and importance. Once considered the noblest grape of the coast, from Nice to Spain, it has seen its home diminished over the years to the environs of Bandol and a few small pockets of resistance sprinkled here and there, notably in the Roussillon. Sadly, the reason is all too familiar—its low yields and finicky development led growers to opt for more productive and easier-to-grow varieties. Even in Bandol, the grape was once on the verge of disappearing, saved in the 1930s only by the determination and charm of the Peyraud family at Domaine Tempier, who convinced the entire appellation to go back to the way of Mourvèdre. Today, that tradition remains strong in Bandol, especially in the hands of Agnès Henry at Domaine de la Tour du Bon. Independent and philosophical, she guides her Mourvèdres through different interpretations, be it rosé or rouge, in cement, wood, or clay amphorae. Her 2015 Bandol rouge, long the estate’s flagship wine, is all that we love most about Bandol: layers of juicy black fruits with chew and a real sense of place, with black olive tapenade on the nose. Only in Provence . . . Heading west, not far from the Spanish border in the heart of French Catalan country, another philosopher-vigneron, Olivier Vinci, makes a wildly meaty and minty rouge from a rare remaining parcel of very old-vine Mourvèdre. At Olivier’s neck of the woods overlooking the Mediterranean to the east and Spain to the south, he vinifies slow and long, with the utmost lack of intervention. For both the Bandol and the Catalan wines, leave time once opened—or decant—before drinking, to allow the olive or minty eucalyptus notes to reach their peak. Then you can truly celebrate the grandest grape of the southern French coast.
Made predominantly from the noble Mourvèdre grape, Bandol reds perfectly translate the sun-kissed landscape of Provence. At once profound and generous, they flaunt a somewhat rustic, earthy side while expressing the jovial personality of the Provençal people. At Tour du Bon, vigneronne Agnès Henry crafts dense, potent reds from clay and limestone soils tucked beneath the medieval village of Le Castellet. This part of the appellation is shielded from cooling sea breezes, so her wines show a full-throttle ripeness and almost bloody, animal character that shines alongside lamb and game dishes, rich tomato sauces, and other hearty Mediterranean cuisine featuring plenty of garlic and herbs. Delicious today, this Provençal beast will have no problem aging and evolving in bottle for twenty more years.
Domaine VinciFrance | Languedoc-Roussillon | Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
Not far from the Spanish border in the heart of French Catalan country, another philosopher-vigneron, Olivier Vinci, makes a wildly meaty and minty rouge from a rare remaining parcel of very old-vine Mourvèdre. At Olivier’s neck of the woods overlooking the Mediterranean to the east and Spain to the south, he vinifies slow and long, with the utmost lack of intervention.
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