The why, the what and the how of...
Château De Pibarnon
Château de Pibarnon, nicknamed the ‘Petrus of Bandol’, produces some of the finest wines from Provence.
It all started in 1977 after tasting a 1975 Château de Pibarnon Rouge, that Henri and Catherine de Saint Victor decided that a visit to its source was in order. The view from the estate, which sits 300 meters above sea level overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, was nothing short of breath-taking. “If you do not like the harsh life, we are interested” commented Saint Victor to the owner at the time who was weary from years of farming the dry, stony soils. Just like that, in November of 1978, the Saint Victors became the proud owners of Château de Pibarnon.
Having no knowledge or winemaking experience, the couple were hoping the previous owner could bring them up to speed. However, his secrets died with him the following year. The Saint Victors therefore turned to the soil. Unlike the rest of Provence, the soils here dated back to the Triassic period – that is to say over 150 million years older than any other domaine in Provence. The chalky and limestone qualities of the soil coupled with the altitude of the vineyards strike a perfect balance, resulting in wines of immense structure and elegance.
Mourvèdre is the star of the show at Pibarnon. The majority of the estate’s 50 hectares which are planted to red varietals are dedicated to Mourvèdre, with only 5% planted to Grenache. With an average age of 35 years, the vines produce low, concentrated yields. The vines are farmed organically and by a team of just five people, doing everything by hand. Other varietals planted at Pibarnon include Cinsault (used in the Pibarnon Rosé), Clairette and Bourboulenc with these latter two used in the Bandol white. The Bandol red is 100% Mourvèdre and with age, it can often take on characteristics easily mistaken for top Bordeaux. The winemaking is all about minimal intervention. The red undergoes a 3-week maceration before being racked off into oak casks where it matures for 20 months. With the rosé, the Cinsault is given a gentle pressing so as to retain fruit character and structure in the wine, whilst the Mourvèdre is bled off the skins (“Saignée”) and transferred from tank using gravity. There is no oak used in the production of the rosé. The white does see a bit of oak to give the wine a bit of weight.
Eric, Henri and Catherine’s son, has now taken over the running of the estate. Château de Pibarnon fashions some of the top wines from this incredible appellation. “Any reader wanting to taste the best expression of Bandol should get on this estate’s bandwagon, as the price has yet to catch up to the quality.” — The Wine Advocate