Review: Wines from Bandol, France’s Hidden Gem of a Region

These rosés break all the seasonal stereotypes and pair well with, well, everything

November 1, 2022 6:28 am
Three bottles of wine from Bandol
Three bottles of wine from Bandol
Photo illustration

What we’re drinking: Bandol wines

Where they’re from: The sun-soaked namesake Bandol appellation in the Provence region.

Why we’re drinking these: Here’s what I suggest: Extend the rosé-all-day sentiment beyond 24 hours. Rosé is versatile, able to pair well past the warmer weather and into the colder months. I’m constantly surprised every time I open a bottle of Bandol and it just works with whatever I’m eating. Charcuterie, grilled seafood and anything with spice, be it a tomato sauce with a heavy hand on the hot pepper flakes or a grilled pita wrapped around lamp skewers. It does it all.

Rosé́ is often thought of as summer water — cheap, cheerful patio bottles. But the wines of Bandol break those stereotypes, offering up incredible minerality, complexity and aging potential.

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Take a look at where Bandol is: perched high on limestone cliffs that overlook the cerulean blue waters of the Mediterranean and the fishing village of Bandol. The seaside resort district is filled with languid beaches, seafood stands, patio brasseries, and palm trees. There’s no better place to drink rosé. Or make it — the limestone soils and warm coastal climate are the ideal home for Mourvèdre grapes.

A shot of the landscape of Bandol, France
Real shame that Bandol is not picturesque
Courtesy of Chateau de Pibarnon

The reds here are equally intriguing. Mainly made from Mourvedre, the reds are big, brooding and bold — the antitheses of the rosés that come out of this region. The notes of tobacco and rich plum will only get better as you age it for ten or twenty years. (And yes, that’s a very good idea.)

How they taste: 

  • Domaine du Gros Noir rosé: To expect a wine this light and delicate is a huge surprise, considering what the winemaker looks like — Alain Pascals is a former boxer and an absolute behemoth of a man. Yet while he built a career by throwing his weight in a ring, his wines are done with a delicate touch. Think charismatic and vivid, but precise, full of depth, but light and fresh. $46
  • Domaine Tempier rosé: The iconic Peyraud family’s legacy is known far beyond France. Lucien can be credited with putting Bandol rosé on the map back in the 1940s, and his loving wife Lulu watched over the estate into her 100th year — both Kermit Lynch and chef Alice Waters would make pilgrimages to visit the couple. She says her secret to her long life is drinking a glass of wine a day. I could certainly do that with her rosé — it’s chiseled and fine, with notes of peach and pomegranate with lovely fresh acid. $55
  • Chateau de Pibarnon Mourvèdre: While the other Bandol wines we’ve talked about are bright and light, this is the opposite. This is savory, earthy and big, meant to tangle with roasted meats or other more substantial dishes. It’s one of the greatest estates in Bandol, soaring above the coast and overlooking the seaside. It’s a nice place to be, and a nice place to make wine. The rosés are excellent, but I’m drawn to the Mourvedre red — brawny bottles with a rich earthiness and rich notes of plum jam, leather, and cassis. $45

Fun fact: The earliest instances of wine in the region date back to 500 B.C. (!), when Romans would bottle up wines and ship them out of the port.

Where to buy: Bandol wines will be available at most fine wine retailers and bottle shops, though Domaine Tempier is more difficult to find. 


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