Hello friends. Today’s offer got me to thinking: are our names (and nicknames) our destinies? If my father had had his way and named me Zero Zitarelli instead of Paul (reasoning: it would have been both mathematical and alliterative), would my life have turned out differently? My guess: yes. (In this case because I likely would have been teased so relentlessly in middle school that I’d probably be a shut-in by now. Thanks, mom, for sticking with Paul and saving me from that particular alternate history).
And when you’re called “the Provencal Hercules” by Kermit Lynch, are you going to make thin, insipid wine? No, probably not. Instead you’re probably going to make big, bold, beautiful Bandol:
The Hercules in question is Alain Pascal, and he is making some of the most exciting wines to come out of the finest part of Provence: Bandol. Bandol (see location on this map of Provence wine) is the only region I can think of in France whose main focus is Mourvedre. Mourvedre, which is mostly used as a blender in the southern Rhone, here must make up at least 50% of the blend. In Alain’s case, his Bandol Rouge is a full 80% Mourvedre, the remainder Grenache and Cinsault.
There are really only two Bandol producers that get a lot of attention in the United States: Domaine Tempier and Domaine Ott. And for many years, Alain Pascal’s father (Honore) sold most of his fruit to Domaine Ott. The Pascal family used to bottle a small amount of their own wine for family consumption, but it wasn’t until the death of his father in 1997 that Alain began holding back more fruit and bottling it commercially. Already by 2001, Jamie Goode (of the outstanding Wine Anorak) was calling Gros Nore a rising star, and the quality has only increased from there, culminating with this 2009, which receive an eye-popping review from Wine Spectator:
Wine Spectator (Kim Marcus): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 94pts.”
Note that the “now” in the drinking window of that review was autumn 2012, so we’re in the peak of the peak, and this wine certainly drinks like it. From 30-40 year old vines grown on clay soils, this spent 18 months in big old neutral oak foudres and now another four years maturing in bottle. It jumps out of the glass with a nose of smoke, wild game, spiced and browned meat, fresh plums, and dried fruits like blackberries and figs. It’s a nose that’s plenty complex, with more than a hint of the sauvage. Mourvedre’s wild character is on fine display here, and this conveys a real sense of sun-soaked fruit. All that ripe fruit is lifted by subtle floral notes, and the overall package hangs together beautifully. In the mouth, we get lush, rich, intense dried fruit, serious structure in the form of burly/meaty tannins, and plenty of finishing toothsome chew.
Alain Pascal is a hunter, and I’ve seen pictures of him cooking wild boar to pair with this Bandol. I’ve also seen him grilling several of the big oily fishes that roam the Marseillaise coast (this is bouillabaisse country). Perhaps that would be better with his Bandol rosé, but it’d be worth a shot with the rouge. For me, this wine made me want to spit-roast some kind of small, mostly-dark-meat bird and drop a bottle into the decanter. Regardless of what you eat this with (maybe nothing at all; it’d make a fine cocktail wine), it’s a delicious, beautiful wine, evocative of one small, unique patch of terroir in the south of France.
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.
[Oh, and if you made it to the bottom of this one, I’ll add on one more detail on names, which is that my grandfather was sort of named Hercules too; Ercole, actually, which was the Italian version, but he shortened it to Earl, and then was eventually called Horsey more than anything else due to his predilection for the racetrack. There’s your piece of Zitarelli family history for the day. Now get back to work!]