By ERIC ASIMOV
Published: November 1, 2010
In the popular imagination, Provence calls to mind sunny, pastel images of hillside towns climbing up from the sea. For the wine lover, Provence mostly conjures up the tangy, lighthearted spirit of rosé, sipped within earshot of the water. It simply doesn’t square that carefree Provence is also home to a superb red wine that practically epitomizes the term “brooding.”
But then, anybody who has read the Marseilles-based novels of Jean-Claude Izzo knows that Provence has its dark side, too. As far as wine goes, that would be Bandol. There, in a pocket of terraced hills west of Toulon, within sniffing distance of the Mediterranean, surprisingly sturdy wines made largely from the mourvèdre grape can stun you with their haunting beauty.
Just the other week, I had a 2004 Bandol from Château Pradeaux ($37), one of the most resolutely traditional of Bandol producers. When young, these wines are deep, dark and practically savage, but this one was just emerging from the stranglehold of its tannic embrace. It was decidedly dry and structured yet bewitching, with aromas of licorice, leather and flowers along with something wild and untamed. By its weight, tannins, aromas and flavors, the wine reminded me of nebbiolo, except for that wild element, which is very much mourvèdre’s own...