Around the imposing vertical escarpment known as the Pic Saint Loup, abundant limestone litters the vineyard floor, balmy garrigue fragrances waft through the dry Mediterranean air, and the nearby mountains bring cool breezes that temper the at times stifling meridional heat. La Roque’s old-vine Mourvèdre is consistently one of the finest values we import from any region. Rugged as the landscape from which it is born, this chewy red offers aromas of ripe black cherry and wild brush that beg for something hearty, grilled, and smothered with garlic and herbs.
Alain Pascal of Gros ’Noré reports that the 2010 harvest began twenty days later than in hot, dry years like 2009 and 2017. The vintage favors finesse over brute power, which says a lot when the vigneron is a former boxer built of pure muscle. A substantial wine nonetheless, the 2010 Bandol shows a limestone-born freshness that is less evident in hot years. You’ll want to decant this beast or let it age further in your cellar to let it uncoil and release its full spectrum of rustic, earthy Provençal flavors.
From the schist slopes of Faugères, here is an altogether different take on Mourvèdre (the blend also contains 20% Syrah from cooler, north-facing vineyards). It takes the proverbial “iron fist in a velvet glove” to the next level: you can practically taste the iron! Coating this brawny, almost bloody core is a luscious layer of inky-black fruit, flecked with spice and minerals. A brilliant viticulturist who lives entirely off his land, Didier Barral is an idol to sustainable farmers across France and beyond; his Valinière is a monumental demonstration of what happens when respectfully working the earth is not just a job, but one’s whole life.