France: Provence

Bandol and Cassis

Marseille's local fine wines
By Liz Berry MW and Elizabeth Gabay MW

This Guide was last updated on 24 April 2011
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Main wine styles


Most Provencal reds including Cassis red are supple and fruity and best drunk within two or three years. However some of the best, most ageworthy reds of the region made in traditional (non-New World style) come from Bandol. Rarely released before at least two years after the vintage, slightly tannic with herby tones, Bandol reds may age well for up to twenty years and usually need at least five to eight years to show at their best. There are quite definite differences in style to be found, dependent on vinification – use of small newer oak, or large older oak, as well as the differences in altitude, the higher altitude vineyards such as Domaine La Begude and Pibarnon producing more elegance and finesse than the wines from lower altitudes nearer the coast.  In general, improved knowledge means that barrels are now being used more judiciously than before and some excellent wines are being produced.


Cassis’ soft, mellow white wines are the traditional accompaniment with the local fish dishes. A hint of herby garrigue notes complements plain grilled fish, while the wines’ soft mellow roundness balances shellfish. The medium to low acidity never produces too challenging a combination to any rich, garlic laden bouillabaisse fish soup.


Rosé wine is the ambassador of Provence and amounts to around 2/3rds of the production, mainly produced in a fresh, dry style from a blend of grapes to be drunk young. Cassis rosé can be a good match with garlic-laden fish soups. Unlike many other rosés, Bandol usually shows a distinctive light salmon pink colour and aromatic garrigue (wild herb) aromas. Bandol’s spicy rosés with a good proportion of Mourvèdre can be particularly delicious and may age better than other local rosés, indeed they are considered among the best rosés of France

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