Monday, May 21, 2012

Chateau de Pibarnon Vertical

I had the pleasure of working with Chateau de Pibarnon Bandol at the beginning of my career whilst still in Mauritius and personally believe Chateau de Pibarnon is the finest Bandol.

I was pleased to hear that it is now available in South Africa, through Great Domaines and at less than R 300 per bottle, it is an absolute bargain for a wine of such pedigree.

A magnificent Vin de Garde, the most serious and splendid red wine of provence, made from a high percentage of Mourvèdre grape, easy to appreciate in youth, but have always found them to be more exciting at around 6 years from vintage, they ages effortlessly for 10-15+ years.

This now famous Bandol property located near the coast east of Marseille and Cassis, was purchased by Henri de St. Victor and his family in 1978.

Planted on steep terraced slopes known as "Restanques" who is basically low-dry stone walls, build piece by piece, on the northern edge of the appellation, with the Massif de la Sante-Baume in the backgroud.

Chateau de Pibarnon is known for its dark purple-black wines that have both concentration  of plums, cassis, sweet herbs, violets, vanilla and spicy cinnamon, yet always elegant.

Both Henri de Saint Victor and his son are passionate wine makers.

Chateau de Pibarnon frequently comes out on top in comparative tastings of not only Bandol, but when pitch against top Bordeaux as well.

The Chateau overlook an amphitheatre of vines and has a spectacular panorama of the sea.

So to understand Bandol a little better:


Making wine for more than 2600 years
Romans arrived in 125 BC

Grape variety

Minimum 50% Mourvedre + no more than 15% in  total or 10% individually of Syrah and Carignan
Other grapes are Grenache Noir and Cinsaut


Nearly 3000 hours of sun exposure
Mild rainy winters, spread over a limited number of days
Mild spring, can be humid
Hot summers
Sunny autumn


South facing terraces,  known as Restanques
1500ha of vineyards for the whole appellation divided into 8 communes.
Most vineyards are on hillside as well as plains
Natural Amphitheatre for Chateau de Pibarnon


Flinty, silicon, limestone soils


Hand harvest only
No Chaptalisation
Slow natural stabilization
Careful selection through blind tasting, in June of the first year following harvest


Minimum 5000 vines hectare
Spur pruning, two buds spurs on the trunk
Green harvest in june, keeping between 5 to 6 bunches per vine, policy of "one vine, one bottle"
40 hl/acre


Minimum 18 months upbringing in cask

Consistent producers

Chateau de Pibarnon
Domaines Tempier
Chateau Ste Anne (Organic)
Chateau la Rouviere
Chateau Pradeaux
Chateau Vannieres

South African suggestions

Though Mourvedre plantings have increased in recent years, the majority are being used in Rhone style blends, the most consistent straight Mourvedre producer in the Cape is Beaumont Wines from Bot River, who have produce stellar examples for the last 15 years or so, with impressive longevity, a must try at around R165 per bottle.