Delicious Mourvèdre from Bandol

Today’s Story: Domaine de la Tour du Bon

Domaine de la Tour du Bon traces its history back to 1925 when a couple purchased a working farm that consisted of vast countryside and olive trees. During the 1930s, the property hosted pigs, sheep, bees, fig and olive trees, and vines that would ultimately take over more and more land from the olive trees. Though wine production began, it wasn’t until 1955 that the name Domaine de la Tour du Bon was registered and the first bottle label was established. As the domaine expanded wine production, they built a large farmhouse between 1960 and 1962 that houses a cellar and helped increase capacity for vineyards. In 1968, the Hocquard family took ownership of the domaine after working a crush and the birth of three children during the 1970s helped lay the foundation of the estate becoming a family operation. In 1990, Agnès Henry (Mr. and Mrs. Hocquard’s daughter) made the domaine her home and workplace and functioned as winemaker where she remains to this day.

Domaine de la Tour du Bon is located at an elevation of 150m above sea level in Le Brûlat du Castellet which lies in the northwestern corner of Bandol. The land here requires great determination to farm and planting the vineyards was no easy feat thanks to the soil mix of limestone, clay, gravel, and red subsoil (some of the rock pulled to plant the vines even went into building the farmhouse). Agnès practices organic farming methods (she began exploring biodynamic methods a few years ago) on her 14 hectares of land and all fruit is hand-harvested to produce six different bottlings. Agnès produces Bandol Blanc, Bandol Rouge, Bandol Rouge Saint Ferréol, and Bandol Rosé from 11 hectares of vines averaging 38 years old, as well as a Vin de France “D’Ici” from 0.5 hectares of vines planted in 1970 (Grenache) and the En Sol from 0.2 hectares of vines 45 years old (Mourvèdre).

Today’s Wine: 2017 En Sol

100% Mourvèdre; 14.5% ABV

The 2017 En Sol is an opaque deep purple color with some deep ruby variation near the rim. I let this decant for about an hour and the nose showcases aromas of blueberry, plum, cherry, smoked meat, tobacco, eucalyptus, nail polish remover, mint, and a hint of chocolate. Once in the mouth, this wine shows notes of juicy plum, blackberry compote, smoke, violet, anise, loamy earth, game, gravel, and green herbs. This is a full-bodied Mourvèdre with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. I was surprised how elegant and soft this is for a Mourvèdre, especially one this young.

Price: $80. This is an outstanding Mourvèdre that for its elegance and finesse makes me very excited to see where it will go with more bottle age. Pair this with game, beef, lamb, or pork.

Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove

Today’s Story: Domaine du Gros ‘Noré

Domaine du Gros ‘Noré was founded in 1997 by Alain Pascal, though he and his father Honoré grew and sold grapes on the property beforehand. Born in a small house surrounded by the vineyards in Bandol, Alain grew up to become an amateur boxer (thanks to his burly build and bear-claw-sized hands) and avid hunter but he always wanted to be a farmer. Though Alain and Honoré sold most of their fruit to Domaine Ott and Château de Pibarnon, the father and son duo also produced wines for their family’s enjoyment without estate bottling and commercializing it. After his father’s death, Alain shifted focus and founded Domaine du Gros ‘Noré (named after his father) which quickly helped catapult him to the forefront of winemaking in Bandol.

From the very beginning of his domaine, Alain sought to create wines through minimal intervention. Part of this vision includes fermenting his wines with only indigenous yeasts and not filtering them before bottling. Though he first became recognized for ripe and full-bodied wines thanks to his practice of allowing the grapes to mature fully on the vine before harvest, over the years he tried shifting toward wines of freshness and complexity by harvesting slightly earlier. The resulting wines offer both power and silkiness while depicting the sunny hillsides of Provence, its clay soil, and terroir in beautiful clarity.

Domaine du Gros ‘Noré consists of 16 hectares of vineyards, which Alain farms with help from his brother Guy. Alain’s vineyards are predominantly clay with some limestone, and the Mediterranean microclimate brings warm weather and full sun that culminates into expressive fruit.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Cuvée Antoinette

95% Mourvèdre, 5% Grenache; 15% ABV

The 2010 Cuvée Antoinette is deep ruby in color with bright ruby rim variation and slight particle presence in the glass. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of ripe cranberry, cherry, red and purple florals, leather, cured meat, cigar box, loamy earth, graphite, and wet gravel. I also get a bit of heat on the nose, likely due to the relatively high 15% ABV. On the palate, this wine shows notes of cranberry, raspberry, dusty blueberry, smoke, tobacco, charred earth, mushroom, underbrush, and chocolate. The wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a long finish dominated by dark fruit and earthy tones. While drinking beautifully right now, there is definitely another decade to enjoy this wine.

Price: $82. I paid a bit more than this here in the USA’s Midwest, but I think $82 is a great price-point for the wine. This is a beautiful representation of Mourvèdre and was a library release directly from the domaine. Pair this with gamey meats, especially venison or buffalo and bison.