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tasting notes

(Prices and stockists in the UK are listed in brackets; as a rough guide £1 = US$1.50. Date of tasting is indicated by month/year at the end of the note.)

More than half of the wines made in Provence are of the pink variety, used to quench the thirst of multitude of thirsty tourists who descend on the region each year. While these are mostly forgettable, there's a small but increasing number of top-notch red wines being made by a dedicated band of producers caught up in the winemaking revolution that is sweeping the South of France. Especially good are the Mourvèdre-based wines of Bandol.

(see also: The wines of Domaine Gros' Noré, Bandol, Domaines Ott, Provence)

Domaine de la Grande Pallière Rosé 2007 Côtes de Provence, France
This organic rosé is a beautiful pale salmon pink colour. The dominant theme here is fresh strawberry fruit with good acidity and a smooth, luxurious texture. There’s a bit of spicy, bite too. It’s the sort of wine you could quaff without too much though, but if you give it some contemplation, it rewards you with some complexity. 89/100 (£9.95 Nicolas) 06/08

Les Maîtres Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de Saint-Tropez Cuvée Carte Noir 2007 Côtes de Provence, France
In a very elegant round-shouldered, tall bottle, this is an attractive salmon pink colour. There’s gentle strawberry fruit here, along with a savoury mineral character and an attractively rounded texture. A stylish, grown-up sort of rosé that’s perfect for a summer’s day, and has the ability to recreate summer if you drink it in another season. 88/100 (£9.50 Nicolas) 06/08

Château Sainte Anne 2005 Côtes de Provence, France
Open, sweetly fruited nose is fresh and spicy with elegant red fruits. The palate is soft with spicy earthy depth and a hint of meatiness. Sweet, but with a nice savoury spiciness. 89/100 05/08

Château Sainte Anne 2005 Bandol, France
90% Mourvèdre.
Forward, bright red berry fruit nose is quite tight with some sweetness and spiciness. The palate is dense, focused, savoury and spicy, showing firm tannic structure. Really intense, this is one for keeping. 91/100 05/08  


Domaine La Courtade 1999 Côtes de Provence
From the Ile de Porquerolles, a Mourvèdre dominated blend. Deep coloured. This is a bit of a structured beast of a wine. Firm tannins, high acidity and prominent spicy oak, together with savoury, tarry, spicy-edged fruit. Notes of herbs and olives too. An ambitious wine. Very good+ 88/100 (around £10 from La Vigneronne) 05/03

Domaine Gros’ Noré Bandol 1999 Provence, France
A little early to be broaching this, I suspect. On opening it shows vibrant, spicy-edged red fruits on the nose, firm and taut with some herby complexity. The palate is structured and bright with lots of primary red berry and blackcurrant fruit, high acidity, and tight, fine-grained tannins. Backward at the moment but with the potential to evolve into something special in five years or so. Not opulent, but quite elegant. Very good/excellent 91 05/03

Domaine Gros’ Noré Bandol 1998, Provence, France
Lovely focused nose of spice, herbs and just a touch of animal-like character. Warm and spicy. The concentrated palate is leathery and spicy with plenty of firm tannin. Youthful. Lovely stuff with a bright future ahead of it. Archetypal Bandol. Excellent 06/02

Domaine de la Bégude Bandol 1996, Provence, France
Deep coloured, this is quite a dual-personality wine: initially it is ripe and sweet with blackcurrant and berry fruit, but the palate shows leathery, spicy, earthy fruit with firm tannins and a dry finish. Good concentration: quite a striking wine but it will probably increasingly dry out and become astringent. Very good+ 05/02

Tempier Bandol Rosé 1999, Provence
I find it hard to get really excited by Rosé, but this is a good one, from Bandol's most famous name. A pale orange/pink colour with attractive, herby strawberry fruit on the nose. Rich, full-flavoured palate with a nice herby, spicy character. Would be stunning in situ, no doubt. Very good (£11.16 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Domaine de Gerbaud 1999 Côtes du Luberon
The Domaine is owned by Olivier Verola, but the wine is vinified by famous negociant–eleveur Michel Tardieu. It’s a dark wine, with a savoury berry fruit nose displaying some liqouricey, chocolatey notes. The palate is rich and smooth with a savoury, spicy roast coffee edge. Slightly forced, but great concentration and lots of flavour. Very good+ (£10 La Vigneronne) 08/02  

Tempier Bandol Rouge 'Classique' 1999, Provence
Quite a full, heby nose with a lovely Provencale character. Mid-weight expressive palate is quite complex and shows plenty of character and good balance. Fascinating stuff. Very good+ (£13.61 A&B Vintners) 11/01

Domaine de la Citadelle 1997, Côtes du Luberon
This Provencale wine gets a couple of stars in the latest Guide Hachette; I've only previously tried the unoaked Cuvee Le Chataignier from this revitalised 40 ha estate, which I enjoyed. A vivid purple/black colour, this is initially a bit muted on the nose. The palate shows reasonably high acid and some tannic structure, with flavours of stewed fruits (fascinatingly, the tasting note in the Guide Hachette picks up the same character, quite independently), underlain by chalky tannins. Good concentration. Overall, I was a little disappointed: I was expecting this to be really good, but I found it a bit porty, with a slightly hot alcoholic finish. Very good (About £7, World Marechal) 7/01

Domaine Lafran Veyrolles 1998 Bandol
This is a small 10 ha domaine in Bandol with a good reputation. A blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cinsault, this is lovely stuff. Delightful, full, animal-like nose with cinnamon spice and herbs. Dense, savoury, herbal palate; complex and tannic. Needs time. Very good/excellent (£11.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine Lafran Veyrolles 1998 Bandol Cuvée Longue Garde
Tannic and youthful, this has a rich, herby nose that is just a little muted (as is quite common in southern wines destined for long ageing). Complex, deep and herby on the palate with firm tannins and lots of density. Needs lots of time. Very good + with the potential to be excellent in a decade or so. (£15.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine Gros' Noré 1998 Bandol
From a new domaine owned by Alain Pascal, who rents 15 ha of vines. Deep red/black colour, this has an attractive but slightly muted nose of minerals and smoke. On the palate it is dense, youthful and tannic with a herbal edge to the fruit. Shows great promise and needs some time in bottle to reach its potential. Very good+ (£14.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de la Courtade Blanc 1998, Côtes du Provence
A quality-minded domaine located on the island of Porquerolles, this aromatic white wine is made from the Rolle grape. It has a floral, perfumed nose, and on the palate it is richly-textured and full flavoured, with quite low acidity. Very good+ (£13.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Château Simone Blanc 1998, Palette
From a tiny appellation, this expensive white wine is a bit of an oddity, but it is of high quality. The full, spicy nose leads to a full flavoured palate with a touch of spice and good balancing acidity. Dry and rich, with some potential to improve in the bottle. Very good + (£17.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine La Bégude 1998 Bandol Rosé
This is very pale pink in colour -- only just a rosé. It has a sweet spicy nose that is followed up on the richly textured palate by some strawberry fruit and high acidity, with a touch of bitterness on the finish. Very good, but rather too expensive? (£9.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Château Simone 1998, Palette Rosé
Another expensive offering from Château Simone, this is an attractive pink/orange colour and has a muted nose. The palate is lovely and rich, with spicy character and good balancing acidity. Good/ very good (£16.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine La Courtade 1998, Côtes du Provence
From an ambitious domaine on the island of Porqourelles, this is a really attractive Mourvèdre-based wine in a modern mould. Lovely, exotic nose of deep, smoky fruit with licqourice and menthol. On the palate it is tannic and dense -- although it is oaky, there's a nice balance between this and the fruit. Very good/excellent (£13.95 La Vigneronne) 11/00

Domaine de la Royère 1998, Côtes du Luberon
This is an old vine, wood-aged cuvée from the Provencale region of the Luberon. It has good concentration and is sweetly fruited with dusty, dry tannins. A smooth, easy drinking red of some substance, and good value at the price (around £6.50). 12/00

Domaine La Dona Tigana 1999 Cassis
This southern French white is a bit shy on the nose. It’s light and fresh, with a hint of a floral note on the palate and zippy acidity. Fine for washing your Bouillabaisse down with on a hot summers day in the Mediterranean, but a little bit neutral and acidic. Interestingly, this is the Domaine of Jean Tigana, the French international football player who now manages Fulham FC. 1/01

Domaine la Citadelle Côtes du Luberon 1999 Cuvée le Châtaignier
Dark, chunky, chocolatey southern French red with soft, liquoricey fruit balancing the firm tannins. Showing good concentration, this is a really nice wine for the price. Very good. (About £5, World Marechal) 11/00

Château Mourgues du Gres 'Les Galets Rouges' 2000 Costières du Nîmes
A concentrated deep red/black coloured wine, this has an enticing meaty, savoury, slightly cheesy nose. The palate shows lovely medium-bodied savoury character, with meaty dark fruits and some tannin. Superb food wine with real character: there's authentic, almost Northern Rhône-style Syrah here. Drinking well now. Very good/excellent (€5.40; £3.50 Milles Vignes) 12/01