A Beginner’s Guide to Bandol Rosé

Rosé wines from a French sister city pair wonderfully with our seafood (and our climate).

By Jeremy Parzen June 30, 2014 Published in the July 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The city of Bandol, France, shares its climate and much of its cuisine with Houston.

It’s a port and a fishing city, on the southern edge of the state, near a warm body of water. The weather here is hot for most of the year. The people are friendly, and they enjoy a good glass of wine with the bountiful seafood served up at local restaurants. No, the city isn’t Houston—it’s Bandol, a town on the southern coast of France, the region that’s been producing the world’s most famous rosé wines for as long as anyone can remember.

The sunbaked, southern-facing foothills of the Bandol AOC (appellation d’origine controlée, or controlled designation of origin) look out over the Mediterranean, where warm temperatures meet a cool sea breeze, making for an ideal place to grow thick-skinned, tannic Mourvèdre, a red grape that makes for a gamey red wine—the type you crave during winter months, when stews and roasts dominate the dinner table.

But humankind, especially those of us who live on the southern coast of this country, cannot live on red alone. In spring and summer, when we tend to consume more seafood, we look for lighter-bodied wines whose depth and complexity match the richness of mollusks, crustaceans, and the sauces that accompany them. Strange as it may seem at first, Mourvèdre grapes also work well in rosés.

Wine normally gets its color from the skin of its grapes, but red grapes can produce white wines if the skins aren’t macerated (i.e., steeped) in must (i.e., juice). Champagne is an example of this, as is true rosé. To make a rosé, the winemaker simply limits the amount of time the skins of red grapes are macerated in their must, which imparts just enough gentle tannin to give it that extra dryness and body that go so well with warm-climate dishes.

Here in Houston, look for top Bandol rosés made from Mourvèdre grapes by wineries such as Tempier and Pradeaux, typically under $50 a bottle, and worth every penny. If you’re looking for something a little more accessible, we like the mostly Mourvèdre Domaine de la Laidiere rosé for only $27 a bottle, as well as the even more affordable Domaine la Suffrene rosé for $21, both at Spec’s and both cheap, cheerful, and totally quaffable.

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