Domaine Castell-Reynoard Bandol 2005
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Domaine Castell-Reynoard Bandol 2005 Tasting Notes

Bandol is the great red wine of Provence. Appellation regulations require the wine to be at least 50% Mourvèdre blended with either Grenache or Cinsault, with some Syrah and Carignan allowed. In Bandol allowed yields are among the lowest in France. Bandol is the only French appellation where Mourvèdre is showcased as a leader, though the varietal has become a popular blending component from the southern Rhône through the Côtes de Provence all the way through Languedoc and Roussillon. Mourvèdre produces small, thick-skinned berries that can result in a wine high in tannins, high in alcohol, and low in acidity, with gamey, meaty, brambly and herbal flavors. This 2005 Domaine Castell-Reynoard Bandol is a straightforward blend of 75% Mourvèdre and 25% Grenache, with alcohol at 13.5%.

Domaine Castell-Reynoard is a small family-owned property of only about three acres in the heart of Bandol. The Domaine's grapes are harvested by hand and given eighteen months cask aging. This $25 estate-bottled wine is dark, virtually opaque, with a slightly less dense narrow purple rim. The leading notes on the nose are violet and blackberry, with some thyme and clove behind. In the mouth the wine is decidedly dry. The tannins are fine grained and firm, well integrated into the wine. The palate presents a slight, very pleasant savory meatiness, thyme and clove with some black pepper, and restrained notes of blackberry and black plum. I tasted little in the way of wood. The finish is fully mouth-engaging and respectably long; though the fruit is restrained it also has the stamina to shine at the finale, where you notice the acidity that has been there all along.

You've got to enjoy a few tannins and some meatiness to appreciate this wine, but the wine is in no way punchy or aggressive as I find with some of its Mourvèdre cousins from Spain; it's too well balanced for that. This Bandol cries out for food, and substantial fare at that. You could cellar this a few years, but no law says you can't open it right now.

Though (to use an overused term) I consider Bandol “accessible,” this accessibility requires the wine lover to develop a taste for this absolutely unique wine. That task is hardly Herculean for those who wish to explore the realm of the senses a bit more widely. The wine world almost lost Mourvèdre. The phylloxera epidemic of the late nineteen century nearly wiped it out, and it spent half the twentieth century getting back on its feet because it did not take well to grafting to phylloxera-resistant vines. This survivor is France's flagship Mourvèdre wine, plucked out of a harsh, unforgiving land, and worth the effort to get to know.

Verdict: A Wine That Rewards Involvement
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From a speck of Southern France nuzzling the sea, Bandol brings important variety to French wines.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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