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Comte de Saint Victor “Château de Pibarnon” 2000 Bandol (Provence) – Halfway to excellence, but the halfsies are evident in the disjointed structural imbalances, which are slightly stewy and tending towards the fluffy at the moment. That’s not, I think, where this wine will end up. Otherwise, there’s blackened meat liqueur and herbal tincture…a pretty classic Bandol signature, with a rocky underbelly seemingly characteristic of this house. Wait on it. (11/12)

Alex Lifeson

Comte de Saint Victor “Château de Pibarnon” 2001 Bandol (Provence) – Very difficult, for a fairly long time. Sweaty, thready, reticent. Not even up to a good bout of surly. After about an hour, the wine within starts to peek at its surroundings, with the classic sweetening of mourvèdre as it expands – from smoked meat to smoked berry – taking the fore. If there’s a flaw, it’s that there seems to be a little polish or burnishing that’s damping the complexity, but the wine’s in such a trouble adolescence that it’s really not possible to do more than grumble subaudibly at the notion. Hold this, if you own any. (6/12)

Oh Tempier, oh mores!

Tempier 1998 Marc de Provence (Provence) – France is rife – one might legitimately say littered – with distillates that almost no one knows. Of all the European spirits that have been aggressively, relentlessly exported, the micro-marcs are so far down the queue that there’s little hope of ever seeing them out-of-region.

And thus, one must drink them in situ. Or at least in restaurant. I have, I admit, a bit of a fetish for asking after such spirits, but it’s all too often the case that the obvious liquids are so obvious to my interlocutor that they don’t arise in conversation. And when they do, it’s often in the negative: “oh, that’s…rough” as the declination goes. I was turned away from spirits like this very one countless times, in hotel and restaurant bars.

I don’t brag to say that I’m no ordinary drinker; I’ve learned to like the chaos of the private distillation, and I don’t discredit those who would, looking after my well-being, try to dissuade me for cogenerative reasons. But – barring the next-morning hangover from a poorly-distilled spirit – I just don’t mind the weirdness that often results. And so there’s cajoling, and sometimes a measure of begging, but eventually the spirit arises. So to speak.

At Tempier, where I acquire this particular example, the problem isn’t existence – there’s a bottle of this prominently displayed in their foyer – so much as saleability. Where’s the capsule? What’s the price? Can we sell it? Which “vintage”? And so forth. No importer’s last-second demands have caused as much frenetic trauma as my request for a bottle of this spirit, while chez Tempier.

And, so? It’s…majestic. As would, admittedly, be expected from Tempier. Gravels and sands, rocks and earthquakes, bronzed plums and ambered figs. It’s breathtakingly great. (5/12)

Stop s’Noréing

Pascal “Domaine du Gros’Noré” 2005 Bandol (Provence) – Gorgeous wine, in the first flush of youth. That flush has a meaty tinge to it, as well as vise-squeezed dark berries (skins still clinging) and a lot of herbal/peppery stuff misted about the environs, but the primary impression here is one of intensity and barely-withheld power. Owning a lot of this would be a good idea. (1/11)

Let it Gros

Pascal “Gros’Noré” 1999 Bandol (Provence) – The odd match of maturing, meaty/liquorous “fruit” and an incisored bite of tannin that typify Bandol in its adolescent stage. It’s not young any more, but the hurry to get to it will very much depend on how much one craves animal juice. It’s forceful for a Bandol, wrapping itself in a few more layers of herbed foil than might be normal at this stage. I like it, but I’ll like it more in a decade, I suspect. (8/10)

Tourtine angst

[vineyard]Peyraud “Domaine Tempier” 1993 Bandol “Cuvée Spéciale” La Tourtine (Provence) – Surprisingly, almost shockingly, primary. Stuffed with sizzling blackberries and plums, black earth, walnuts, and a blizzard of black pepper. The structure has retreated into the background, but it’s still most definitely there. As intense a Bandol as I’ve ever tasted, in flawless balance, but still so, so young. Ten more years? Twenty? Probably more the latter. (6/09)

Peyraud tax

[vineyard]Peyraud “Domaine Tempier” 1994 Bandol “Cuvée Spéciale la Tourtine” (Provence) – Bretty, for sure, plus the usual mourvèdre horse of a different earth. Very aromatic, which seems to go hand-in-hand with those qualities in these wines. Dark dried fruit (or perhaps dried dark fruit) and a lovely graphite texture that really emerges on the finish. Tastes fully mature, but these wines seem to hang on a lot longer than one expects once they reach this stage. (4/09)

Peyraud tax

[vineyard]Peyraud “Domaine Tempier” 1995 Bandol (Provence) – Probably à point, and while it’s a beautiful old civet of herbs, meat, and earth, there’s a muted aspect to a finish that could be a little more expressive. It’s damned tasty, though. Drink sooner than soon. (5/08)

I Fontanieu drug

Bronzo “La Bastide Blanche” 1993 Bandol “Cuvée Fontanieu” (Provence) – Band-aid and a swirling chorus of well-hung meat, meat juice, meat residue, and a dry brush of herbs. There’s still some structure, and it grows in the telling, but I’m not sure I’d hold this one any longer; the structure shed might not be replaced by anything good. (4/08)

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