Bandol, in the south of France in Provence is a sun-drenched wine region along the Mediterranean Sea known for making powerful red and lively rosé wines. The overall region has a long-standing viticultural tradition going back almost 2,600 years, largely started by colonizing Greek settlers and significantly bolstered by each successive wave of settling peoples. Proximity to the port of Marseille has meant that the region has benefited from access to historical, global trade routes, which has placed Provencal wines and the wines of Bandol on tables across the globe.
The principle grape variety of Bandol is Mourvèdre, which must make up at least 50% of the blend in AOC wines. Other allowable grapes are Syrah, Carignan, Grenache and Cinsault, although most of the best producers lean very heavily on Mourvèdre. Stylistically, the red wines are often massively tannic with long aging potential. Both dry and sweet red wines are produced. The rosé wines are light and perfumed, ready for enjoying on a sunny patio with lighter fare. A small percentage of white wine is produced, primarily from Clairette, Bourboulenc and Ugni Blanc, but it almost never gets out of the region. The soil in the vineyards is primarily limestone, sand and silica, which are ideal for growing Mourvèdre.
Château Pradeaux a well-regarded estate owned by the Portalis family since the 18th century, has a reputation for seriously structured, often powerfully tannic wines made almost exclusively from Mourvèdre. The wines are aged in large old casks and are released as much as four years after the harvest. Successive bottle aging is the key to releasing the complexity of these wines, but be prepared to wait a while because the wines unfold very slowly.
The 2005 is the current offering from Pradeaux and it will be a while before the wine is at its full potential. At an average retail price of almost $50 per bottle, it is not cheap, but it is a very special wine with tremendous potential.
My tasting note:
Fresh, lively nose with cherry, allspice and light floral hints. Full-bodied with moderate acidity and firm, tough tannin – good balance. Tight, unyielding palate with sour cherry, tobacco leaf, dried herb and tar. Moderate length – closed with traces of spice and cedar. Needs time – not for the faint of heart.