It was a rosé, white and blue holiday this past weekend—burgers, shrimp and big, thick spring onions on the grill, along with a pair of dueling Bandol rosés. That's right, rosés.
The sun-baked swath of southern France that runs from the Rhône Valley west through Provence produces delicious rosés. Bandol, which relies on the Mourvèdre grape, produces some of the most stylish versions.
These two wines offer a great contrast—same appellation and vintage, yet very different in profile, with one more elegant and minerally in profile, the other showing denser fruit and a creamier texture. I rated both 89 points, non-blind.
Made from equal parts Mourvèdre and Cinsault in stainless steel, the 2008 Château de Pibarnon ($29) is the more elegant of these two rosés, with a light copper color and a tangy minerality that holds the upper hand over stylish dried cherry fruit. It's lean and bracing on the palate. The Mourvèdre portion of the blend comes from juice that was bled off fermenting red wine—a process called saignée that produces a lighter-style wine—and is combined with Cinsault juice from the press to finish fermenting.
The Château Pradeaux ($25) has a touch more Mourvèdre (55 percent) than Cinsault, and is all direct-press juice, lending it a little more power because the juice has been in contact with the grapeskins longer. (Rosés get a shorter, lighter press than reds so as not to extract too much color or tannin.) It's a shade or two darker in color, closer to rose petal, while delivering plump, juicy strawberry, salted butter and spice notes on a well-rounded frame that has a touch more heft than the Pibarnon.
Both wines are dry, with enough of a racy edge to cut through hearty grilled fare, as well as the complexity and vivacity to be drunk on their own which, in this case, means while you're waiting for the food to cook. Frankly, I can't get enough of them at this time of year.
WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more Top Values among rosés.