On a Friday afternoon, I was hungry for steak frites. Fortunately, Wine Spectator's New York office is located near a French-style bistro, Les Halles, where steak frites are the specialty of the house. So senior editor Bruce Sanderson and I ventured over for a midday repast.
There was no question what to have with our steak and potatoes: a full-bodied red wine. Les Halles' wine list has recently been admirably revamped, and now includes many selections from my tasting beats in the south of France. I quickly zeroed in on a few selections, and a 2003 Bandol from Château de Pibarnon, priced at $48, intrigued me. It caught my eye because the vintage was blazing hot in all of France—and nowhere more so than in this appellation of Provence. Yet Mourvèdre loves heat, especially late in the growing season, to ripen its intense red fruit flavors. I was curious as to how the wine would perform six years on.
Open and ready to drink, its tannins tamed, the Pibarnon was smooth, with dried berry, plum and savory herbal flavors, with touches of juniper and plenty of peppery notes. This red was a delicious match with our steak frites, and I rated it 90 points, non-blind. I have been lucky enough to visit Pibarnon; its vineyards lie just over a crest from the Mediterranean in a beautiful amphitheater, a natural bowl that concentrates the heat. In this unique microclimate, Mourvèdre excels and is reflective of the terroir of Bandol.