CHATEAU DE PIBARNON
Now recognized as one of the great wines of France, Pibarnon did not always enjoy such acclaim. Although Bandol was one of the first appellations to be created in 1941, the wines slumbered in some obscurity. In 1975 Henri de Saint-Victor forsook Paris and the world of pharmaceutical patents to make wine in Bandol. He had found Pibarnon, at the time a somewhat run-down estate of only 5 hectares. But what wine! Intense but elegant it was enough to persuade Saint-Victor to take a leap of faith, and invest in a new life.
Today the estate has grown to 48 hectares, and the winemaking is in the hands of Henri’s talented son, Eric. The vineyards are planted to 80% Mourvèdre, 10% each Grenache and Cinsault, and a smattering of mixed white varieties.While the rosé and white are arguably the best of their appellation, the real star is the red wine, the wine that first seduced Henri.
Produced from 95% Mourvèdre and 5% Grenache, the wine shows the telltale strength of its appellation. But Pibarnon is at once more complete and more graceful than its neighbouring Bandols. The secret is its unique location. At 300 meters above sea-level it is the highest property in the appellation. Its vineyards are comprised of steep-sided bowl-like valleys and sculpted terraces. Here, the sun-loving Mourvèdre flourishes with excellent drainage ensuring adequate hydration, and the winds of the mistral to drive off unwelcome disease. Its gracefulness is said to come from the Triassic limestone that forms the soil.
The vines are trained en gobelet with four canes per vine. A single wire allows the canopy to be raised for aeration of the grapes. A green harvest takes place in July to reduce the yield to 35-40 hl/ha. A light treatment of manure is the only fertiliser. The harvest is by hand, using small boxes.
Vinification is modified traditional. The wines are made in the tank with all the grape varieties fermenting together. For the red, one third to one half will be destalked. Only vines ten years or older are allowed for the red wine. Fermentation usually takes place at 92F. Tanks are punched over daily. Cuvaisons up to three weeks. Press-wine and free-run wine are blended, and malolactic fermentation takes place in cask. No new wood is used, and the wine is racked four times over the next 18 months. A final blending, a fining (no filtration) and all the wine is bottled at once.
Since 2003 Eric has made a second red wine, Les Restanques, which comes from younger vines, and is made in a relatively more forward style.
The rosé is half Mourvèdre, half Cinsault, the former produced by saignée the latter by pressing. Vinified at 74-78F. Undergoes malolactic. Bottled in March or April.
The white undergoes cold racking and a long, cool fermentation, followed by malolactic.
Starting with the 2014 vintage, Eric has introduced a reserve rose: Nuances. 100% Mourvedre, released in the fall of the year following the vintage, so it receives more bottle ageing.
Point of Sale