Matthew's World of Wine and Drink

About Matthew's World of Wine and Drink.

This blog began as a record of taking the WSET Diploma, during which I studied and explored wines and spirits made all around the world. Having passed the Diploma and become a WSET Certified Educator, the blog has become much more: a continual outlet for my passion for the culture of wine, spirits, and beer.

I aim to educate in an informal, enlightening, and engaging manner. As well as maintaining this blog to track my latest enthusiasms, I provide educational tastings for restaurants and for private groups. Details can be found on the website, and collaborations are welcome.

Wine is my primary interest and area of expertise and this blog aims to immerse the reader in the history of wine, to understand why wine tastes like it does, and to explore all the latest news. At the same time, beer and spirits will never be ignored. 

For the drinker, whether casual or professional, today is a good time to be alive.

Bandol

Bandol

My second visit to Oakland saw a sun-soaked evening with views that could have been straight from Marseille in Provence. Appropriately enough, because I was there to join a long-established San Francisco tasting group to explore the wines of Bandol, a small Provençal appellation not far from Marseille, with vintages going back to 1993. As we sipped on a rosé from legendary Bandol producer Domaine Tempier, while looking out on Lake Merritt, the city hall, and San Francisco in the background, one member of the group commented, "This almost makes me want to move to Oakland."

  Mediterranean Oakland

Mediterranean Oakland

the place

Bandol, like the rest of Provence, is best known for its rosés, as these complex, aromatic wines, based on the Mourvèdre grape, go beyond the general perception of rosé as a simple, light-coloured, easy-drinking summer wine. If there is one rosé worth spending $30-50 for a bottle, then it's Bandol. However, these rosés - unusually - overshadow the great reds of Bandol, again based on Mourvèdre. These big, structured reds emerged around the time of the Second World War, from grapes grown on steep terraces directly overlooking the Mediterranean. The climate is warm, with intensely hot summer days and mild winters, ideal for the late-ripening Mourvèdre. The altitude of the high terraces, together with the moderating influence of the sea, help cool the climate to prevent the grapes developing too powerful aromas. All of these complex dynamics lead to wines that are tannic and closed when young, but which slowly open up with time.

domaine tempier

Domaine Tempier are an example of Provence's long winemaking history, dating back to the eighteenth century, but also of the recent development of the region's great red wines. Until the late nineteenth century when artists came to paint the beautiful, remote landscape, Provence was a rural Mediterranean region cut off from metropolitan Paris. This meant that its wines did not develop in the same manner as regions such as Bordeaux which were more connected to cosmopolitan markets. It was in the 1940s that Domaine Tempier emerged as one of the leading wineries of Bandol, when Lucien Peyraud and his wife Lucie Tempier moved into the property. They weren't the only ones to notice the potential of Bandol, and with a handful of other producers they pushed to have Bandol recognised as a great winemaking region by basing the wines on Mourvèdre. Sought-after if still not widely known, Domaine Tempier's wines are defiantly old-fashioned: funky and difficult when young, but concentrated and long-lived, and one of the great expressions of the Mourvèdre grape.

  eight Mourvèdre-based wines

eight Mourvèdre-based wines

mourvèdre and the blends

Bandol is the one appellation in France where Mourvèdre is the most important grape. It produces smoky, earthy wines with bramble fruits and plays a small, if significant, role in the wines of southern Rhône. In warm Bandol, this late-ripening grape comes into its own; at the same time, however, I feel Mourvèdre is still at its best in a blend, even when the dominant grape. (This is true too of Paso Robles in California, the one other region I know of that excels in Mourvèdre-based wines.) The big black fruits, black pepper and liquorice spice, and dry tannins are best balanced by the red fruits and low tannins of Grenache and the fruity softness of Cinsault. This was the case with the seven Bandol wines I tasted: my three favourite wines had 50-70% Mourvèdre in them. This highlights the complexity and range of the Bandol appellation, with a series of grapes working together to create extraordinary wines.

the wines

These wines were all tasted blind, apart from the rosé. I'm not a huge fan of tasting wines this way, as instead of being educated about the wine it becomes a guessing game. We also had to rank the wines from first to last, again difficult given the range of vintages. But the tasting highlighted the consistent quality of Bandol reds, their ageability, as well as how surprisingly approachable they can be while young.

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé 2015

Floral, aromatic, and casually sophisticated, this is a young wine that is easy to sip on but has enough structure to continue ageing and to be paired with a range of foods, including salmon or soft cheeses. The only one of these wines not to be tasted blind. ✪✪✪✪✪

  my tasting notes and ranking

my tasting notes and ranking

Wine A: Domaine la Suffrène 1998

This was my number one ranked wine, with mature earth, game, leather, mushroom aromas, but still with fresh black fruit aromas of brambles, together with black pepper and liquorice aromas. The tannins were drying but old enough to be well intergrated. ✪✪✪✪✪✪ (#1 for me; #3 for the group)

Wine B: Domaine de la Bastide Blanche 2012

I've tasted this a few times teaching, and I again liked this wine with its smoky, toasty, floral, and blackberry aromas, the tannins not too aggressive despite its youthfulness. A good example of how Bandol can be approachable when young. ✪✪✪✪✪ (#3 for me, #5 for the group)

Wine C: Domaine de Terrebrune Rouge 2011

Founded in the 1960s, Domaine de Terrebrune also helped push Bandol into the international spotlight. Another good example of Bandol at a young stage of its development, with floral, spicy, black fruit aromas. ✪✪✪✪✪ (#4 for me and for the group)

Wine D: Domaine Tempier la Migoua 2003

From one of Domaine Tempier's most famous vineyards: this should have been very exciting to taste, especially at a perfect point of its development at thirteen years old. However, I personally found the wine disappointing and wondered if it was corked. The rest of the group loved it though ... ✪✪✪ (#8 for me; #1 for the group)

Wine E: Porvey 2015

This was the ringer in the tasting - a Mourvèdre from California. As it was only from 2015 and tasted like it had only just stopped fermenting, it was quite easy to spot. It was from the Sierra Foothills, which I do think has great potential for Mourvèdre. ✪✪✪ (#7 for me; #7 for the group)

Wine F: Domaine Tempier la Migoua 1993

On tasting these wines blind, I found this wine very similar to Wine D - it was in fact from the same vineyard - but more alive, fresh, and vibrant, despite its faded colour and nose. The palate was particularly, and surprisingly, fresh with lively black fruits and acidity together with mature, animal aromas. This wine proves how well Bandol ages. ✪✪✪✪✪✪ (#2 for me; #2 for group)

Wine G: Domaine Tempier Cabassaou 2013

This time, a little too young: Domaine Tempier, and Bandol in general, do need time to open up, especially with the drying tannins. Still, attractively floral. ✪✪✪✪ (#5 for me; #6 for group)

Wine H: Château de Pibarnon 2010

Perhaps the least interesting of the wines tasted, and the one with the most Mourvèdre (90%), with a confusing combination of high tannins, high acidity, fading colour, black and dried fruits. Neither old nor young, probably needing some more time to come together. That's the way wine can work: immediate and appealing when young; attractively mellow when old; but confused and indeterminate when adolescent. ✪✪✪ (#6 for me; #8 for the group)

My second visit to Oakland saw a sun-soaked evening with views that could have been straight from Marseille in Provence. Appropriately enough, because I was there to join a long-established San Francisco tasting group to explore the wines of Bandol, a small Provençal appellation not far from Marseille, with vintages going back to 1993. As we sipped on a rosé from legendary Bandol producer Domaine Tempier, while looking out on Lake Merritt, the city hall, and San Francisco in the background, one member of the group commented, "This almost makes me want to move to Oakland."

Bordeaux Blends

Bordeaux Blends

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