Friday, June 4, 2010

When in Rhône...Les Malautiers 2006 by Baron Gassier Bandol Appellation

Yesterday I drank a wine that really reminded me of the cherry cough syrup my mama used to spoon for me. Its from the appellation Bandol, which is in an area wedged between the naval town of Toulon and the regional capital of Marseille in Provence...

The wine, produced by Baron Gassier, who produces a lot of wine in Bandol, blends Mouvèdre, Cinsault et Grenache into this very very cherry tasting southern coastal wine.

But why did I drink a Bandol? I thought the Rhône Valley was my hunting ground ?

I didn’t have a choice...
This week a constuction crew was doing streetwork on our avenue here in Guilherand-Granges and the team of three workers - a Franco-Cambodian, an Ardèchois and a guy from Normandy –shared with me their favorite wines. It’s a rare opportunity to learn about wines from regular French guys who bust their rump every day digging ditches and still make time to talk wine.

It never ceases to amaze me what treasures you can find in this country when you just ask…and listen. I invited them to eat their box lunch under our platane tree that sits in front of our house. Our little picnic went well as we shared a few beers and talked a bit about America and France and of course, food and wine. One of the guys, who they call « Rambo » because he lifts weights and has overdeveloped biceps, couldn’t stop praising Bandol.

« We did a job down there in Bandol and they showered us with wine. We came back with tons of Bandol and to this day I swear by it, » Rambo told me with the other two nodding.

I never thought I would have a conversation with construction workers about alcohol content and wine appelations. But enought talk, we started drinking a few bottles that Rambo bought minutes earlier at Intermarché ! (surprise, surprise)

Bandol on the palette
The tanins were there, but not too much, so the structure was a bit weak. But it drank well and the 2006 was certainly going to turn in the next couple of years. These southern wines just don’t keep, so just drink. It’s a low cost wine that gives you the plum and cherry and a hint of pepper on the finish. The tasting notes on the bottle claim there is a hint of eucalyptus but I wasn’t tasting the Sucrets after tasting the Smith Brothers cough drops. It’s know for being herby. I also tasted some cinnamon and liquorice along with plum.

Mouvèdre country in Provence
Bandol is the land of mouvèdre. Winemakers there also grow other varietals like grenache and the appellation now enjoys a growing reputation.

Decreed in 1941 as an appellation, Bandol covers an area that includes eight towns just east of Cassis and lies in an amplitheater reaching an altitude of 1100 meters. The vineyards are known for having long terraces called « rustanques » as well as agricultural land and the yield can never be higher than 40 hectaliters per hectare. It not only has limestone rustanque terraces but also sandstone terraces too. The soil is rich in fossil shells, and is mostly clay and limestone, however, with some granite too. The Mistral is a big part of the climate of this area, as this mighty wind ends its journey from the Rhône Valley and hits Cassis and Bandol. The vines are mostly free of rot thanks to the sea winds that also blow in from the west to the southeast facing coastline.

Bandol : Land of painters
Apparently Bandol is a coastal town in Provence town where one imagines painters spending afternoon trying to capture the seascapes and landscapes around it. Seems like a far off world from the world of road construction. But a wine like this deserves praise for accessibility to the the guy golding the paintbrush or a jackhammer. I don’t think Rambo paid more than five euros for the bottle.

Food Pairing : Venison or a salami sandwich
As far good goes, this wine has a lot of options. During our lunch, Bandol went well with our makeshift meat sandwiches and was even better with some camembert at the end of my wine lesson. I could see it going well with a steak, especialy venison, even venison sausage. A salami sandwich might be good too.

Never judge a book by its cover
My brush with Bandol just goes to show that even road workers in France can give you a teaching session on wine.


  1. Hi James! post sounds good!
    Thanks very much...and...don't drink much in South France :-)) I'm joking!!
    Next post,

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