Bandol rouge: that iconic dark, brawny nectar with unmistakable tannic grip. Agnès Henry’s version is trademark Bandol but also a horse of a different color. Her blend includes a little less Mourvèdre and a little more Grenache than may be typical, translating into a softer structure and an almost ethereal weightlessness. The 2019 Tour du Bon rouge, with its juicy nose and bright, crunchy fruit, its mouthwatering acidity and peppery verve, is particularly elegant. We opened it on a perfectly ordinary Sunday evening with a bowl of butternut squash soup and fresh crusty bread. It made our quiet dinner feel like a fête.
Domaine de la Tour du Bon rests atop a limestone plateau in the northwestern corner of the A.O.C. Bandol, nestled beneath the mountains to the North. It is a bastion of tranquility, a Mediterranean oasis surrounded by beautiful gardens and vineyards. The Hocquard family has been farming this land since 1968, situated at an altitude of 150 meters above sea-level. Fourteen hectares of red earth, clay, sand, and gravel rest upon sturdy limestone bedrock; brow-beating excavation and focused determination alone built these vineyards. Today, Agnès Henry runs the show. Independent, quick to laugh, and modest, Agnès has come into her own. Who better to make the wine than the person who knows the story of the land the best?
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.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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