I think my best recent Bandol blanc story is the one Kermit shared with me last December about a bottle of 1952 Sanary Blanc (AOC Bandol) he enjoyed in Provence along with his son, Anthony, Jean-Marie Peyraud, and Alain Pascal. He wrote me immediately to share the incredible tale of this sublime wine without a hint of oxidation. I can’t promise you that this bottle from Reynald Delille will turn into the same magical, timeless elixir, but it has the highest probability of any wine being made in Bandol today. Delille’s incredible terroir of Trias limestone in view of the Mediterranean produces a white that is built to provide pleasure over many years. Saline, herbal, with mirabelle yellow plum, it develops additional nuance and complexity as the years roll by. I have yet to taste a tired bottle from my ten-year vertical.
In 1963, Georges Delille bought what would become Domaine de Terrebrune, a property in Ollioules, just east of Bandol, framed by the Mediterranean and the mountain called Gros-Cerveau (Big Brain), dotted with olive groves and scenic views—an idyllic spot. Mass overhauling and reconstruction of vineyards followed the declaration of A.O.C. Bandol (1941); vignerons were eager to revive the noble Mourvèdre grape. Georges spent ten years just renovating the property, terracing hillsides and replanting vineyards following the advice of Lucien Peyraud. In 1980, his son Reynald joined him, and together they launched their first bottled vintage of Domaine de Terrebrune, which Reynald named in honor of the rich, brown soils they farm.
Perhaps there is no region more closely aligned with the history to Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant than Provence. Provence is where Richard Olney, an American ex-pat and friend of Alice Waters, lived, and introduced Kermit to the great producers of Provence, most importantly Domaine Tempier of Bandol. Kermit also spends upwards of half his year at his home in a small town just outside of Bandol.
Vitis vinifera first arrived in France via Provence, landing in the modern day port city of Marseille in the 6th century BC. The influence of terroir on Provençal wines goes well beyond soil types. The herbs from the pervasive scrubland, often referred to as garrigue, as well as the mistral—a cold, drying wind from the northwest that helps keep the vines free of disease—play a significant role in the final quality of the grapes. Two more elements—the seemingly ever-present sun and cooling saline breezes from the Mediterranean—lend their hand in creating a long growing season that result in grapes that are ripe but with good acidity.
Rosé is arguably the most well known type of wine from Provence, but the red wines, particularly from Bandol, possess a great depth of character and ability to age. The white wines of Cassis and Bandol offer complexity and ideal pairings for the sea-influenced cuisine. Mourvèdre reigns king for red grapes, and similar to the Languedoc and Rhône, Grenache, Cinsault, Marsanne, Clairette, Rolle, Ugni Blanc among many other grape varieties are planted.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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