A Provençal Find

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Elin McCoy's Wine of the Week


2009 Domaine du Gros' Noré Bandol Blanc

Price: $28
Region: 
Bandol, Provence, France
Grape:
 70 percent ugni blanc, 30 percent clairette
Alcohol: 
13 percent
Serve with:
 shellfish, ceviche, bouillabaisse or stuffed roasted fish

I came across this little-known French white recently on the imaginative wine list at The Fishery restaurant in North Pacific Beach, Calif. Tangy and crisp, but also rich and complex, the 2009 Domaine du Gros’ Noré Bandol Blanc has a slightly salty taste that reminds me of the sea — which is why it was perfect with the ahi tuna poke laced with chili and cilantro.

The sun-drenched Provence region is definitely the land of rosé. But the small appellation of Bandol within it, which surrounds the picturesque coastal fishing village with the same name, has also won acclaim for serious Mourvèdre-based reds.

Yet few wine lovers realize that producers there make tiny quantities of whites too; these account for just five percent of Bandol’s wines. Yes, many Provençal whites are neutral and bland, but those from the top producers in Bandol, like Gros’ Noré, are distinctive and worth seeking out.

The grapes for this unusual white are high-acid ugni blanc, used in cognac, and late-ripening clairette, an old-fashioned variety that makes rich wines with finesse. Both come from a two-and-a-half acre parcel of 30-year-old vines about three miles from the Mediterranean Sea, planted decades ago by the legendary Lucien Peyraud, who made nearby Domaine Tempier — and the Bandol appellation — famous.

The Pascal family, which owns the land, used to sell grapes from their 40 acres to other estates. But in 1997, professional boxer Alain Pascal and his brother shifted to bottling their own wines, named the domaine Gros’ Noré after their father Honoré, and soon U.S. importer Kermit Lynch had sniffed out the wines.

More than a decade ago, I visited the domaine during harvest. A noisy film crew was dragging cameras through the sunny vineyards as I sipped glasses of red and rosé in the cool cellar. I’m delighted to finally discover Gros Noré’s blanc too.


Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”

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