Domaine du Gros Nore Bandol Rouge 2016
It is not packed with jam, but it is jam-packed with goodies. Suffice it to say: classic Bandol flavors, unfiltered. Those who like such flavors—you know if you fit the bill—will be in heaven.
Alain is already a leading contender in Bandol, the appellation regarded as the grand cru of Provence.
He farms sixteen hectares of vineyards with the help of his brother, Guy, on the rolling hillsides around La Cadière d’Azur. The vineyards are composed of both clay and limestone, imparting a pronounced structure of earthy, splintered rock. This microclimate near the Mediterranean brings warm weather and full sun, tempered by the persistent Mistral. Alain leaves his grapes to mature fully on the vine, lending great intensity to the fruit. Where appellation law demands that each blend includes at least 50 percent Mourvèdre, Alain uses 80 percent—a choice that gives more power and concentration to the final assemblage. Do not be fooled by the strength and boldness of the Gros ‘Noré Bandol, though; underneath a big exterior is a wine of character, depth, complexity, soul, and finesse.
Provence’s leader in concentrated and age-worthy red wines, Bandol is home to the dense, deep and earthy Mourvèdre grape. Like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Bandol produces characterful reds that, while approachable in their youth, are typically designed for the cellar. Given its coastal, Provencal situation, Bandol naturally produces an assortment of charming, aromatic rosés made of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cinsault.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, red Rhône blends originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley. Grenache, supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre typically form the base of the blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. With some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in Priorat, Washington, Australia and California.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit and a plush texture. Syrah supplies dark fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy and earthy notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume and earthy flavor as well as structure and a healthy dose of color. New World examples tend to be fruit-forward in style, while those from the Old World will often have more earth, structure and herbal components on top of ripe red and blue fruit.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. These can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes, playing equally well with beef, pork, lamb or game. Braised beef cheeks, grilled steak or sausages, roasted pork and squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the red Rhône blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.