Bandol is an interesting town. The architecture, especially along the harbor is not exactly esthetically pleasing, but the Renecros beach is beautiful. On the drive inland to get to Chateau Pibarnon, the view gets progressively better until one arrives at Chateau Pibarnon.
A stunning chateau with a view of the vineyards (planted in an amphitheater style)and the ocean, Chateau Pibarnon delivers on many levels. We got to Pibarnon via a number of tiny, windy roads, ending in a dirt road that leads to the top of the hill that overlooks the Mediterranean with an incredible view.
Once parked, it is not easy to find the tasting room though. After strolling on the patio to search for the tasting room, I was piloted to the cave downstairs where I had to ring a bell to gain access to the tasting room. The young woman that opened the door proceeded to tell me that she had just gotten back from a stint in India for an importer of French wines (a topic for another discussion altogether) before she got hired a few weeks ago.
She tasted me through a bunch of wines including the 2006 Rose and a white (I don’t remember the vintage). I would like to say at this point that Rose in Bandol and in the Cotes de Provence is generally good and that my untrained palate enjoyed virtually all Roses I tasted during our stay. I did enjoy their white though for its earth, terroir, and blossom driven flavors.
The real highlight were the reds though, where we tasted through 2004, which my host considered a great vintage of Pibarnon, followed by the 2003, the 2002, and the 1999. My impression was that the 2004 is obviously still very youthful, but this mostly Mourvedre blend (90-95%+ Mourvedre) is an absolute stunner of a wine that shows great balance despite high tannin levels already.
The 2003 had even more grip than the 2004, but was similar in flavor profile to the 2004. Despite a particularly hot year (like most of France in 2003), the wine did not have any roasted or raisiny flavors to me, but instead displayed great acidity.
The 2002 was the most aromatic wine of them all with a lively bouquet and a forward personality. According to my host, 2002 was not a good year in Bandol generally, but she thought they did well that year at Pibarnon and I could not agree more. This was the most accessible and ready to drink wine of the lineup and although it is still very tannic, this is showing very well right now, with tell-tale truffle and game notes. Loved this.
The 1999 was pretty closed unfortunately. Virtually nothing on the nose, but on the palate, I could see the promise of something greater with time. Once again, truffle, earth, and blackberry notes make for a compelling wine.
For those of you who are in the Bandol area anytime soon, I highly recommend a visit to Chateau Pibarnon for the wines and view. Just make sure you have a good, detailed map and the “route des vins” guide from the Bandol tourist office.
Part 2 tomorrow covering Chateau Pradeaux.