The Mediterranean port of Bandol is overlooked by hills cultivated with vines that benefit from a long ripening season, enviable light levels and cooling sea breezes. Brothers Pierre and Paul Bunan were quick to realise the region’s potential when they relocated here from Algeria in 1961 and today their Domaines Bunan enterprise is one of the major players on the market. This is a family affair and Paul’s son Laurent, now assisted by his sister Françoise and cousins Claire and Philippe, has developed export markets as far afield as Russia, the USA and Asia. Since 2009 their entire vine holdings, which now extend to over 50 hectares, have been farmed without chemical pesticides and fertilizers and their wines now enjoy fully certified organic classification.
The family’s celebrated Mas de la Rouvière blanc is made from pure Clairette that is vinified in stainless steel vats and bottled in the early Spring to conserve its youthful freshness. It has a golden straw colour, alluring wild flower and citrus fruit scents, supple peach and apricot flavours and an elegant, dry finish. It has an affinity for seafood – filets de rouget à la palancha would fit the bill nicely.
Rosé accounts for nine-tenths of wine production in Provence but the majority of that is pink plonk aimed squarely at the tourist market. In Bandol they make some of the finest rosé to be found in France and few aficionados would dispute that the Bunans’ is amongst the finest. Made from a blend of Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Grenache, it has a lovely salmon-pink robe, a crushed-berry bouquet and a heady cocktail of raspberries and redcurrants on the palate. Crustacea are the order of the day here – dressed crab or lobster spring to mind. Your yacht or mine?
Some purists (nearly all men) aver that the true wine of Bandol is the red because it offers the finest expression of the Mourvèdre grape to be found anywhere in the world. Well, they have a point. This capricious varietal has tight clusters of small grapes that need deep root-stock and plentiful sunshine to fully ripen. The Mas de la Rouvière rouge is a fine example that is made from a base of Mourvèdre with lesser volumes of Grenache and Syrah. It has briary hedgerow scents and complex flavours of black fruit, game, leather and spices over a background of rugged tannins that sweeten and soften with bottle age. It will cellar well for at least a decade and makes an excellent partner to grilled red meat dishes.