About The Bandol Wine Region of France
Sun-drenched Bandol is a dot on the map of France. The region occupies a small, hilly corner of the Mediterranean coast, though most of its vineyards are a few kilometers inland around the popular town of La Cadière-d’Azur.
Although famed for its tannic and often long-lived reds based on the Mourvèdre grape, around 70% of Bandol’s production is now Rosé. These wines range from delicate in style, to fuller, spicier and capable of aging. The full-bodied whites — which make up a tiny percentage of production — can be hard to source outside the region but many estates will have bottles open for you to try. This makes for a good opportunity to try something unique.
Traveling by Bike or Car
Most visitors to Bandol drive between wineries, but e-biking is a good alternative for more adventurous travelers. Several of the most famous estates are within very easy cycling distance of each other and the town of Cadière-d’Azur. Battery power offers a welcome boost when peddling up the many hills.
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There are small rental shops located in Bandol where you can rent E-Bikes for a fee of roughly €40 per day, or less for shorter periods. It’s possible to reserve in advance via email (a 25% deposit is required) which will save you time on the day. When we arrived, the owner Philippe had our bikes sized up, outside, and ready to go. Helmets were provided.
Note that since COVID, some of these shops have since closed. Once you book your hotel, be sure to ask the concierge if they can recommend nearby E-Bike rental shops. You can also simply opt to rent a car and follow our winery recommendations below.
Planning Your Day
Planning winery visits in Bandol is simple. Many estates have cellar doors that you can drop into for tastings without an appointment. Typical opening hours are 9 am-midday and 2-6 pm. Many tastings are free, though the producers hope that you will make a purchase. The very helpful website by Vins de Bandol, the regional body, has a list of 65 estates in the region and details opening hours and whether reservations are required. Five recommended winery visits are listed below.
In a full day, it’s possible to visit up to five or six properties without rushing too much. This still allows time for a bistro lunch in the middle of the day.
Directions can be a little tricky. Don’t rely completely on Google maps unless you’re prepared to spend some time getting lost or attempting to cycle up rocky, near-vertical footpaths. It’s worth investing in an old-school paper map, or at least sense-checking your directions with locals between tastings. We found this to be particularly true in the area south of Cadière near Chateau de Pibarnon and Domaines Bunan.
The town of Cadière-d’Azur is surrounded by wineries. Splitting your day between those to the South and those to the North/East means that you’ll see the region from several angles and can return to the main town when the wineries are closed over lunch.
Bandol Wineries To Visit
Domaine Lou Capelan
Tucked away in the heart of La Cadière-d’Azur you can find Lou Capelan. This is one of the few producers in the region that allow you to schedule a special tour of their vineyard and wine cave while using a Segway out in the field. You’ll be able to take an all-terrain ride through the vineyard in Gyropode, where you’ll be met with some stunning views of the surrounding villages of Castellet and Cadière d’Azur.
Domaine Tempier is perhaps Bandol’s most recognizable name and is certainly among its most prestigious. Particularly in export markets. (In the US, it’s a favorite of importer Kermit Lynch; In the UK it’s stocked by important retailers such as The Wine Society and Lea & Sandeman)
A visit to the property affords you a tasting of wines of all three colors: its powerful reds, bright Rosé, and full-bodied white. This is a must-visit while you’re in the area.
Chateau de Pibarnon
There are many reasons to visit Chateau de Pibarnon, but here are two: the view and the Rosé. The estate — which is the highest in Bandol — overlooks an amphitheater of vines surrounded by forest. The Rosé (we tasted the 2018) is among the very best in the region, combining spicy red fruit with freshness to deliver a full yet refreshing glass.
(Be particularly careful with directions. If you find yourself approaching from a rocky path with a sign that reads “entrance impossible,” believe it. Ignore this advice and you’ll spend the next 15 minutes stumbling painfully uphill. Your author speaks from experience)
At Domaines Bunan you can taste reds, whites and rosés from its Moulin de Costes and Chateau la Rouviere estates side by side. The tasting room is lined with different bottles and overlooks several of the estate’s sloping vineyards. Tours are available at 11 am each morning and last for 45-60 minutes. Booking is required.
Chateau Vannieres boasts one of the region’s more impressive buildings, which makes it a popular event venue as well as a tasting destination. The wines are of high quality, too. We were generously poured nine samples which displayed the variety of styles by this producer. The rosés, for example, ranged from fresh and straightforward to the more serious, fuller, Patience Rosé 2018. Older vintages are available to buy from the cellar door.
Maison des Vins de Bandol
Our day ended with a visit to the Maison des Vins de Bandol, which represents producers across the region and has various bottles open and available to taste. This offers a good opportunity to taste multiple estates that you might not have time to visit.
For e-cyclists, there’s another plus: The tasting room is at the top of a hill in the town of Le Castellet. Your battery power will push you up. A satisfyingly long downhill road awaits for the journey back to Cadière-d’Azur.
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