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 Mourvedre grape, around 70% of Bandol’s production is now Rosé. These wines range from delicate in style, to fuller, spicier and capable of ageing. 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; a good opportunity.

Traveling by Bike

Most visitors to Bandol drive between wineries, but e-biking is 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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Var Ouest E-bike, a small rental shop, is located in La Cadière-d’Azur. E-Bikes are available for a fee of €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.

Planning Your Day

Planning winery visits is Bandol is simple. Many estates have cellar doors that you can drop into for tastings without an appointment. Typical opening hours are 9am-midday and 2-6pm. 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 a number of angles and can return to the main town when the wineries are closed over lunch.

Bandol Wineries To Visit

Domaine Tempier

Domaine Tempier is perhaps Bandol’s most recognizable name, and is certainly among its most prestigious. Particularly on 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.

The views from Chateau de Pibarnon in Bandol, France. | Winetraveler.com
The views from Chateau de Pibarnon in Bandol, France.

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)

Domaines Bunan

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 11am each morning and last for 45-60 minutes. Booking is required.

Chateau Vannieres boasts one of the Bandol's more impressive buildings, which makes it a popular event venue as well as a tasting destination.

 

Chateau Vannieres

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 a 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 from 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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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sarah Phillips is a Miami-based marketer and wine educator. After spending nearly five years working in the London wine trade, she relocated to Miami in January 2019. Sarah has her WSET Diploma (Level 4 Certified) and teaches classes with a focus on the wines of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy at the Florida Wine Academy.

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