My contribution to our beach weekend, aside from some very competent food styling work for this tomato tart, was a selection of Bandol. Whenever I have a vineyard vacation planned, like next month’s trip to Provence, I like to test-drive some wines beforehand. It gives you a sense of what the region has to offer and provides a point of comparison. Particularly for a wine as distinctive as Bandol, it’s a good idea to get your footing beforehand.
So what makes Bandol distinctive? It’s made from Mourvèdre, which produces high-alcohol, tannic wines that have a savory, almost meaty, character to them. I realize “meaty” isn’t the most appealing way to describe a wine, but it works. The night’s first wine, a 2006 Terre d’Ombre from Domaine de Terrebrune ($18.99), one of the vineyards I want to visit, smelled like fried pancetta sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and black pepper, with a few raspberries thrown in there for good measure. Despite the full-throttle nose, the palate wasn’t crazily intense, and the wine was only medium-bodied. The next red, a 2005 Castell-Reynoard ($22.99), had a more muted nose and a softer, velvety mouthfeel. Over the years I’ve created an idiosyncratic (OK, weird) shorthand that helps me associate wines with other sense memories I have. So for example, my favorite outfit in third grade was an impossibly soft lavender velour sweatsuit with a purple satin flower appliqued on the front. (Sadly, no pictures remain.) I can’t help but think of it whenever I have a plush, mouthfilling wines like this Castell-Reynoard.
We also tried a 2008 rosé from Castell-Reynoard ($19.99). The nose was intensely herbal – the wine would have been a great match for the tomato tart dusted with herbes de Provence had we not downed the bottle prior to dinner — and the color was a lovely, salmony hue. I liked it, but in my book $20 is a lot to pay for a pre-dinner rosé and I doubt I’d buy it again.