We are nothing short of wine the enthusiasts here at Paris Perfect, which is why we’ve selected names of French wines that reflect the atmosphere and setting for each one of our Paris vacation rentals. With our French Wine series here on the Paris Perfect Blog we’re taking a look at the wines that are the inspiration for our apartment names. This time, we’re heading to the sun-soaked and dreamy south of France!
When we think of wine from Provence, it’s often the region’s crisp, quaffable rosé that comes to mind rather than big, structured reds that only improve with age. After all, there’s no better match to a Mediterranean summer’s afternoon than a refreshing glass of the pink drink! Yet there exists a combination of grape variety and terroir (that magical French word for soils, climate and everything in between that helps a wine taste how it does) that creates a little bit of red-wine magic along this fabled coastline.
The name? Bandol.
We have created our own little slice of the Côte d’Azur in Paris with our stylish one bedroom Le Bandol vacation rental in the 7th arrondissement. The charming décor is punctuated with bursts of red and Parisian touches to give this bright and airy Left Bank apartment a classic French feel. So why not finish a wonderful day of Parisian discovery with a glass of Bandol in hand?
Before you do, let’s take a deeper look at just where that lovely glass of red wine comes from. It’s here, in the area surrounding this quaint fishing port near Marseille, that the finest expressions of the grape variety Mourvèdre are crafted. One of the fussier grape varieties, Mourvèdre is very particular about where it grows. It thrives in hotter climates, such as Spain, where it originates from and where it’s known as Monastrell. If you’re from the United States or Australia, you may have already enjoyed a glass of it by another name – Mataro. It’s a key ingredient in that quintessential Australian red blend GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro).
It’s unanimously agreed, however, that this thick skinned, late ripening variety has found its home in the eight communes that collectively make up the AOC Bandol: La Cadière d’Azur, Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, Le Castellet, Le Beausset, Evenos, Ollioules, Sanary-sur-Mer and, of course, Bandol itself.
So, why is Bandol such a perfect match for this grape variety?
Well, for a start, Mourvèdre likes water. In Bandol the vineyards are located on the coast and the soils (mainly limestone, with a dash of sandstone and clay) retain water for the dry summer months. It also needs warmth, and the Côte d’Azur offers mild winters, warm summers and year-round sunshine. Yet the proximity to Mont Caume and Massif de la Sainte Baume helps, as does the great Provençal wind, Le Mistral. Both offer respite from the heat, and the Mistral has the added bonus of protecting the grapes from rot.
As grapes go, it’s easy to understand why Mourvèdre has a reputation as particularly demanding!
If you get a chance to visit Bandol (I’d highly recommend it), you’ll understand why the area is poetically referred to as “the land of ten thousand terraces.” The vineyards here are planted on restanques, the local term for a terrace. With the Mediterranean Sea as a backdrop, these terraced vineyards create a rather picturesque landscape.
Today little over 1,400 hectares are under vine. The winemakers face a constant battle to protect their precious land from hawk-eyed property developers looking to construct their latest tourist resort.
It’s a tradition worth fighting for. After all, the lands surrounding Marseille were the first in France to be planted with the grape when the Greeks introduced viniculture when they arrived in 600BC.
As the centuries passed, the reputation of the wine from Bandol only grew. The ageing potential of the wines was realised in the 18th century as the barrels marked B for Bandol didn’t just survive a trip on the high seas, the wine inside got better! By the 19th century, Bandol wine was being shipped as far as the French West Indies, India and Brazil.
It was also the favorite wine of Louis XV. And if it’s good enough for a king …
One of the first regions to be granted AOC status in 1941, this deep, structured wine offers flavors of black fruits, liquorice and violet in its youth, which develop into spicier, jammier characteristics with age. Current appellation rules stipulate that any red wine bearing the name Bandol must be a minimum 50% percent Mourvèdre, from vines aged 8 years or older.
So what to do with the young vines? Use them for rosé, of course! In fact, rosé accounts for more than half of the wine produced in the appellation (there’s also a white wine – Clairette and Ugni Blanc are the main varieties). With a higher concentration of Mourvèdre than other Provence rosés, a bottle of Bandol pink can be appreciated both in its youth and after a year or two in the cellar. Food wise, Bandol rosé works a treat with seared tuna and other seafood. When it comes to a Bandol red, try typical Provençal dishes, from wild boar to grilled vegetables, charcuterie and olives.
Chrissie McClatchie is an Australian wine specialist who has been living in Nice, France for the past seven years. You can follow her travels at www.rivieragrapevine.com.