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Bandol bargain

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Last Tuesday at SAT Foodlab, homage was paid to Richard Olney in the most fitting way: convivially with dishes from his cookbooks and excellent Provençal wines. Olney had a special relationship with Domaine Tempier – his Lulu’s Provençal Table documents the Bandol estate’s history and the cooking of its proprietor, who was also Olney’s friend and neighbour – so, naturally, two Tempier wines were being poured on Tuesday: the legendary rosé and the red Classique. (The 2011 rosé lived up to its reputation as one of the world’s best pink wines: both ethereal and present, with depth and substance, balancing acidity, layers of peach, garrigue and minerals and a bitter flourish on the long, rainwater finish.) Also poured, were two red Bandols from Gros’Noré, including the following, newly available at the SAQ.

Bandol 2003, Domaine du Gros’Noré ($36.75, 11553938)
The Pascal family long sold its grapes to other Bandol estates, most notably Pibarnon, but began making its own wine in 1997. Mourvèdre (80%), Grenache (15%) and Cinsault (5%) from sustainably farmed 20-year-old vines. Macerated 15 days and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Spent 18 months in oak barrels. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. 14.5% ABV.
Dark, nearly from rim to rim. Deep, sweet and earthy/trufflely nose that had people oohing at first sniff. Velvety, big-boned, savoury. Ripe plum and blackberry are the dominant flavours, along with licorice, pepper, forest floor as much as garrigue, a hint of leather and a lingering smoky note. Powerful and generous. Fruit-driven but not a bomb.

Red Bandol often doesn’t peak for a decade or two but this is in a good place now. The round tannins are softer than you might expect, possibly an artifact of the 2003 vintage. Mourvèdre thrives on heat, which may explain why, in contrast to most other European wines from that infernally hot year, this is harmonious, with nothing out of whack.

It was interesting to compare the wine with Tempier’s beautiful 2010 “Cuvée classique,” a leaner, sleeker, tighter Bandol with a more Médoc-like structure. By its side, the Gros’Noré seemed warmer, more rustic and artless, a friendly sheepdog to the Tempier’s aloof greyhound. It would be a great bottle to open for drinkers who think they like only New World wines. And it made a fine pairing for Foodlab’s garlicky roasted stuffed lamb shoulder served with mashed potatoes and celery root.

Most of the bottles of Gros’Noré currently available at the SAQ are the 2007 ($33.75, 10884583). Only a few cases of the 2003 are to be found and, if my experience is anything to go by, you’ll have to ask the clerk to fetch you bottles from the back. With this weekend’s 10% discount, the price drops to $33.07, a bargain for a mature Bandol from a top producer.

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Written by carswell

September 28, 2012 at 21:05

Posted in Tasting notes

Tagged with ,

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