Skip to main content

The Pull of France’s Bandol Wine Region

When it comes to rosé wine, Provence is global royalty. The sea-and-sun-kissed French region along the Mediterranean pretty much invented the salmon-colored, bone-dry style we all adore, especially during the warmer days of spring and summer.

Within Provence is a wine region called Bandol, situated around the eponymous fishing town and made up of eight wine-loving communes. Here, the summers are warm, the soils are full of limestone, and the marine climate is ideal for grape varieties that like to take their sweet time ripening on the vine.

Such grapes include Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Cinsault, a trio that Bandol has made famous. The soils keep yields low and the vineyard rows are handpicked, set along steep aspects that overlook the sea. And while expressive pink wines are what most associate with Bandol, the region also turns out some quality white and red wines. In fact, a lot of wine minds argue that some of the best and most opulent reds to come out of southern France do so here.

Anybody who’s hopped on the rosé train of late knows that the stuff is no longer fussy. In fact, pink wine never really should have been that way in the first place. Historically, in a lot of places, it was usually the end result of either the weakest vineyard rows or the least-favorable first-pressings in the cellar. It’s refreshing to see decent options in boxes, cans, and the like. In Provence, glass and cork is still the go-to method of bottling rosé, but it’s not often a wine that talking heads like to debate at length about.


I like to think of rosé as simply popular and every-reliable in places like Bandol. It’s enjoyed by everybody from tourists with cheese and charcuterie boards to working-class fisherman after a day on the water. When you order a cold one in middle America, you get a Budweiser. When you order the same in coastal southern France, you get a satisfying pink wine or refreshing red. Think less Monaco and yacht culture and more quaint village with charm and a wine scene that punches above its weight. Which isn’t to say it’s not lauded, nor without its own rigorous customs (the rosé, for instance, can’t be sold until March of every year).

Brent Braun is the sommelier at acclaimed Portland restaurant Castagna. He’s also in charge of the cellar at sister wine bar and restaurant, OK Omens, which is conveniently set right next door. Braun has garnered lots of positive attention for his eclectic wine taste and food-friendly selections, including being named on Food & Wine’s esteemed Sommelier of the Year list in 2017.

While the rosé of Bandol is fantastic, Braun is especially drawn to the region’s reds. “I think of red Bandol as one of the great crossover wines,” he says. “For New World drinkers who are diving into French wines, it’s perfect because it has weight and fruit but it’s also unmistakably Old World with earth, lavender, herb, and animal. And because of the limestone soils, they tend to drink with more freshness than other full-bodied Old World reds like Châteauneuf-du-Pape.”

Braun is not alone. Industry types have gravitated toward Bandol for a while now. And for good reason, as the rosé’s tend to offer more texture and vigor while the reds, as mentioned, offer both an accessibility and textbook tasting notes associate with the old country.

Here are a few Bandol wines worthy of your attention:

Domaine Le Galantin

Domaine Le Galantin
Image used with permission by copyright holder

On top of a beautiful label that could double as a department of tourism poster for the entire region, Domaine Le Galantin makes a mean rosé, no matter the vintage. Made primarily from Mourvèdre, as is typical in the region, this wine benefits from stainless steel aging and zero malolactic fermentation, meaning it’s as bright as a just-picked peach.

Domaine Tempier

Domaine Tempier
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Domaine Tempier is an iconic Bandol producer, a family operation that really put the place on the map a few generations back. Folks in France and well beyond know what the Peyraud clan means to the wine scene in Provence. While the whole lineup is impressive, the rosé is a model citizen, macerated at a lower temperature and yielding a wine with an obvious intensity and fantastic integration.

Domaine de la Bégude

Domaine de la Bégude
Image used with permission by copyright holder

For starters, it’s incredibly cool that Domaine de la Bégude’s wines cellar in the building dates from the 7th century. Better still, the wines are stunning reflections of the Bandol scene. The label’s standard issue red is as inviting as they come, made from roughly 40-year-old vines and hit with a touch of 10% Grenache. It has great structure, style, and finesse, with extracted flavors that resonate for a long, long time.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
Pinot Grigio vs Chardonnay: 2 of the most popular white wines, explained
These two wines can be nearly identical, or worlds apart.
Hands toasting with white wine

Arguably, two of the most popular white wine varietals, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, are both exquisite wines with their own unique characteristics. Interestingly enough, depending on a few factors we'll discuss here, these two wines can be nearly identical in their flavor profiles or worlds apart, with nothing but contrast between them. But how is that possible?
Pinot Grigio vs Chardonnay

When Chardonnay is left unoaked, these two wines could quite often be mistaken for twin sisters. Both beautifully bright and charming, with pleasant notes of unripened fruit, wonderfully crisp and citrusy. Of course, there are differences, but they are subtle and really only distinguishable to a more experienced palate or when tasted side by side. Chardonnay can be slightly more robust next to Pinot Grigio's leaner stature, but overall these wines are two peas in a pod.

Read more
This unusual bourbon is finished in rosé wine casks
This unusual whiskey from Penelope Bourbon is finished in rosé wine casks
penelope bourbon rose casks introduce jpg

One of the key steps in creating any kind of whiskey is the aging process, where a freshly distilled spirit is put into wooden casks or barrels and left there to age for a period of years -- up to 30 years or more in the case of some high-end whiskeys. As the spirit spends time pressed up next to the wood, it absorbs some of the flavors, which mellows out its taste and adds notes like vanilla and oak. The process also turns the spirit from clear to brown, giving a richness in color, too.

Traditionally, you'll find many whiskeys aged in oak barrels. These can have previously held a different drink, so, for example, you might get a whiskey aged in a barrel that previously held sherry, or rum, or port. The wood will have picked up flavors from the spirit that it previously held, so some of these notes will be transferred to the whiskey as well. One very popular combination is using bourbon casks to age scotch whisky, adding sweet and fruity notes.

Read more
The best orange wines for something satisfyingly in between a red and white
Orange wine to try
orange wine

Orange wine continues to dazzle wine drinkers, and it's no wonder that the style sits in a happy medium between whites and reds. The style, a skin-fermented white wine hailing from the Republic of Georgia, is one of the oldest around. And it's also never been more popular, with imports continuing to pour in and domestic producers trying their own takes on orange wine, utilizing a broad range of interesting grape varieties.

Simply put, now's an ideal time to enjoy orange wine. They're coming in from all corners of the global wine map and taking advantage of everything from Gewurztraminer to Marsanne. Most exciting, the best orange wines afford the structure of red wine and the sprightliness of white wine. Like an oxidized Rosé with tannin and sometimes funky and intriguing flavors profiles, these wines are captivating.

Read more