I've always believed that great wines, like great women, like great music, like great art, should be difficult to understand. At times damn near impossible, even frustratingly so, but just one taste, and you're completely head over heels in (crazed) love.
Bandol is one of those wines. It's a French town located on the Mediterranean coast about halfway between Toulon and Cassis. It produces mainly red wines, although its rosé is also well known. White wine is made as well, in small quantities. What makes this appellation unique is its use of the mourvèdre grape as its predominant varietal. At least 50%, which is far greater than other Southern French wines, which use this varietal in small quantities as a blending grape.
Bandol is known to be austere and harsh in its youth. It's a wine that demands aging, as its tannins can be shockingly rigid. I made the mistake of opening a bottle of 2003 Le Galantin about 5 years too soon and the tannins were so formidable I couldn't keep my eyes open. These wines are rustic and of the country. Many wines contain a hint of brettanomyces, giving them an earthy, chicken-coop aroma. Not a flaw, but rather an exciting personality and character.
I love mourvèdre. Such a shame we don't see more Bandol here. But I have a few cases put away, to be opened on its 10th or 15th year. These wines have all the savage, rustic character I look for in a rich red wine, with lots of complexity. A fearsome wine. And a difficult wine to understand. You have to wrap your mind around the cultural significance of these wines, this Mediterranean mindset to fully appreciate it. And of course, serve it with the right food. Big flavours required. Lamb and rosemary, juicy rare steaks, game - heaven in the mouth.
I'm fairly certain my friends have never tasted one before. A shame. But we'll rectify that soon enough.
Difficult wines to understand. Like magnificent women, there's always more than one. We'll get into others soon enough. Pinot noir?