Occasionally food and wine combinations marry so brilliantly that they transcend the everyday and transport you to a different plain of appreciation. Just such a moment occurred at the end of a busy buying trip earlier in the year. We were sitting on the terrace of Le Safari restaurant in the Vieux Port of Nice, which is a nice place to be, and without giving matters much thought ordered a bowl of beignets de morue and a bottle of Domaine Bunan Bandol blanc. Our charming, but lived-in, be-pony-tailed waiter duly presented the requested wine along with the crispy cod fritters and a wickedly pungent aioli. Kazaam! Suddenly we realised we hadn’t spoken for 20 minutes and our plates were empty and the bottle at half-mast. You could try re-creating that at home but it would lack a certain je ne sais quoi.
All of which is a long-winded prelude to saying that white Bandol is underrated and that the Bunans’ is one of the best. Made from pure Clairette, vinified in stainless steel vats, the Mas de la Rouvière blanc has attractive agrume aromas and a crisp palate of orchard fruit enhanced by subtle herbal undertones. It has wonderful affinity for seafood and we shouldn’t leave it all to the Niçois!
The Mas de la Rouvière rosé needs little promotion. Jancis Robinson selected the 2010 vintage as one of her Top 12 rosés in the FT recently praising it as “opulent” and admiring its’ “lovely polished texture”. It is made from a blend of 80% Cinsault and 20% Mourvèdre and has an attractive ‘onion skin’ colour and savoury redcurrant flavours.
Coincidentally la grande dame du vin also selected the Bunan’s red Mas de la Rouvière 2004 (55% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache, 20% Cinsault and 5% Syrah) for a fund-raising dinner at her Alma Mater Saint Annes’ College Oxford in July. It has a wealth of dark Autumnal fruit over a foundation of sun-kissed tannins and would offset an olive-rich daube to perfection.
The Bunans also bottle two pure Mourvèdres. One is a precious Vin de Pays du Mont Caume from vines that lie just outside the appellation of Bandol. It has lots of exuberant, youthful berry fruit and supple tannins and represents great value. The other is their heavy-weight flagship red called Moulin des Costes ‘Charriage’. It delivers a formidable broadside of herb-infused garrigue fruit, leather, underbrush, oak and tannin and will age well for at least a decade.