In 1992, Jason Yapp managed to get drafted to Domaines Bunan's picturesque, hilltop HQ at Mas de la Rouvière outside Bandol for a late summer stage in the vineyard and cellar. Self-described as a 'dithering dilettante', he recounts that 'I must have managed to exude just enough enthusiastic incompetence to somehow endear myself to the Bunan family because they treated me with great kindness and patience.'
Back in the days of Jason's judiciously misspent youth, Bandol was primarily an enclave of red wine production with the (hard to cultivate and vinify) Mourvèdre grape taking centre stage. Today, the tables have turned and red wine accounts for just 22% of the Bandol appellation's output, with rosé wine representing a whopping 73% and white wine just 5%. This is partially explained by regulations which decree that red wine must be made from at least 50% Mourvèdre and aged in cask for a minimum of 18 months before bottling and release. With rosé being de rigeur amongst the yachting community of the Riviera and now commanding similar prices to the red wine, it is no wonder that there has been a shift in emphasis. Happily, all three styles are commendable and well-suited to the local cuisine of lots of fresh vegetables, seafood and lamb offset by Provençal herbs and spices.
The Mas de la Rouvière Bandol blanc is made from hand-harvested Clairette with a dash of Ugni Blanc that is vinified in thermo-regulated, stainless steel vats and bottled on its youthful fruit to conserve its citrus scents, sensuous stone-fruit characteristics and nervy, dry finish. Its sibling Bandol rosé is made from a blend of Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Grenache Noir and has an attractive coral-pink colour, raspberry and redcurrant aromas and palate-cleansing fresh acidity. It partners langoustines or lobster to perfection – the fresher the better. Completing the range of Bandol wines is the rich and rounded red Mas de la Rouvière made from a base of Mourvèdre with lesser volumes of Grenache Noir and Syrah. With a wealth of dark garrigue berry fruit and a core of blackcurrants and damsons supported by tannins that will support (at least) a decade's bottle age, it is a classic of the genre and ideal for entertaining.