In the 6th century B.C., the Phocaeans landed on the shore of Provence, in a place where they later founded their colony of Torroeis. Along with their amphoras, they brought the civilization of vine and wine. Under the Roman Empire, Torroeis became Torroentrum. Located in the vicinity of the village of Le Castellet, the vineyard clung to the hillside with vines planted in terraced rows, just as it can be seen today. This privileged site provided ideal conditions for the rapid development of vine growing, one of the most important economic activities in the ancient world. There started the history of Bandol wine.
Beyond the seas
The terroir in those days was the same as it is today, lying within limits marked by the geological barriers of the Gros Cerveau mountain to the south, the Mont Caume to the east and the Massif de la Sainte-Baume to the north, with the Gulf of Bandol as a natural outlet to the sea. The dev-elopment of maritime trade, together with the skill of enterprising wine growers brought early fame to what was going to become Bandol wine.
The ability of wine to travel by sea was at the origin of the port of Bandol. Later, a deep-water harbour was constructed especially for this trade. This calling grew stronger and stronger until the end of the 19th century. From this bay, sheltered from both prevailing winds – the east wind and the Mistral – the wine trade could expand and prosper. And it did prosper. Louis XV enjoyed Bandol and had it served at the royal table. In 1846, as many as 9,600 barrels where shipped and the city echoed with the blows of hammers from over a hundred cooperage workshops. The Bandol vineyard acreage reached its highest point around 1870. But the vines were destroyed by the terrible phylloxera epidemic and centuries of hard work were ruined.
To restore the vineyard, the wine growers chose the grape varieties best suited to the terroir, giving preference to those that were traditionally grown in the area. In particular, the Mourvèdre – the “King Grape” of Bandol – made the revival and perpetuation of vine growing possible in this region. Thanks to a handful of clear-minded and determined wine growers, among which Countess Portalis, Messrs de Pissy, Peyraud, Roethlisberger, and a few others, a quality-oriented policy was initiated. This demand for quality made Bandol a precursor in the AOC system of regulation. Bandol was one of the first vineyards to be granted the AOC status by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) in 1941, soon after it was created. From then on, the Bandol wine growers have constantly been striving for quality. In this frame of mind, they regularly revise the founding decree of 1941 to improve it. Proud of their unanimity of views and fortified by their diversity, they are heirs to a constantly evolving patrimony. Bandol wines are the fruit of men’s dedication and scrupulous respect for the appellation and terroir. Each of them bears the imprint of the wine grower who made it and reflects his personality. To understand the true nature of Bandol wines, one needs to go and meet them one by one.