With the last few weeks of summer upon us, it's the time to enjoy those final days of the summer grilling season. One of my new favorites from this summer of grilling is the dry red table wine from the Bandol region of France. As a refresher, wines from France are generally labeled by the location, not the grape type, as found in other wine-producing areas such as Napa Valley.
The Bandol appellation is known for the red, white and rosé wines that originate from this small area on France's Mediterranean coast in the scenic Provence region. Bandol's calling card, however, is found in the dry red wines made from the Mourvèdre grape. Known for adding color and structure to wines, Mourvèdre is often the majority partner with Grenache and Syrah. Mourvèdre is typically found in southern France but has its origins in Spain. Its peppery, spicy notes along with is deeper red coloring might remind some of a more refined, grown-up zinfandel. Mourvèdre also finds its way into wines from the Côtes du Rhône, and Chateauneuf-de-Pape.
Bandol red wines are typically kept in barrel for a minimum of 18 months.
With a price point that ranges between $20 and $30, Bandol wines are a great way to buy wine worthy of cellaring for up to 10 years without causing a dent in your wallet. Domaine Tempier, for instance, offers choices that don't require a large investment to obtain high-quality wines with some age already gathered.
Bandol's earthy, structured style works well with grilled foods, particularly beef and pork. The wine's weight gives it notice in the summertime: While its flavor is full, its body is not. Even when grilling season is over, I anticipate partnering Bandol with the heavier dishes of fall such as stews.
While local stores are not especially deep in Bandol, the Tempier label seem regularly available at local merchants. The region's stronger recent vintages are 2000, 1998 and 1996. For a more budget-priced Bandol, look for Domaine de l'Olivette Bandol 2000, which offers a nice price ($20) from a really strong vintage. It could use some time to mellow, but with a grilled steak, the wine works nicely.
When you're shopping in the Bandol section of your local wine merchant, check out the rosé offerings, as the region is also known for high-quality wines in that category. Domaine Tempier's rosé is considered one of the classic, quality examples of this area, although it is often priced above other rosés from France.