Domaine du Gros' Noré Bandol 2000
Bandol on the Mediterranean coast in Provence acts as an enclave; here the mourvèdre
grape, which needs a warm climate to fully ripen, excels as a leader rather than playing its
usual role as a blending constituent. Most wines of Provence are light; Bandol is by contrast a
meaty, gamey, and spicy wine. It is in fact that gamey smell that often confuses the nose; it
can remind the taster of Brettanomyces yeast spoilage. While I didn't think “brett” when I
first nosed this wine, I located the receipt for the wine just in case. By the time I reached the
bottom of the bottle, however, I'd wished I'd had another on reserve. If you want a masculine,
tenacious, unapologetically Old World red wine, structured with quality and care, the $24
Domaine du Gros' Noré Bandol may be just your lucky find. I found this bottle at a small
wine shop (I usually order mail-order) and it was their final bottle. Brought into this country
by the venerable Kermit Lynch.
Owner and winemaker Alain Pascal uses old vine mourvèdre with 15% cinsault and 5% carignan, aging this estate-bottled wine for 18 months in used oak foudres. The wine is unfiltered and unfined. Pascal used a good deal of stems in this 2000 vintage, resulting in a tannic wine that required a few years bottle aging; those years have now elapsed and the tannins have softened into the texture of that favorite old jacket. The Bandol is a medium garnet. The nose first records the smoky muskiness that brought up the spoilage issue, but a brambly black plum and blackberry soon push through with licorice and garrigue (that's a hillside of scrub and wild herb in Provence, away from the beach resorts). The aroma, taken in from a decanter, is intoxicating.
In the mouth the lovely mature tannins form a presentation stage for the rest of the wine; it is
dry, a bit alcoholic at 14%, with medium acidity and medium body. On the palate, the
muskiness is replaced by more clear-cut spice (pepper and mint), though the smoke remains.
The brambly black fruit is meaty and firm, with licorice and cocoa. The wine is filled with
flavor and stimulation, but the mouthfeel is smooth. The fruit perseveres in the face of
competing notes into a distinctly fruity finish. It's all quite a package. Because Bandol leads
with mourvèdre it stands out as a unique entry in a region—the vast swath of the Rhône,
Provence and Languedoc—that produces a sea of wine. This is precisely the type of
“interesting” wine I could come to crave during some lonely moment.
Mourvèdre, once the leading grape of the south of France but nearly wiped out by phylloxera, is on the comeback trail both as a leading grape and as a blending grape.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman