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Chateau de Pibarnon

Pibarnon is located to the north of Bandol on the Télégraphe hill, which was once part of the Toulon-Paris optical telegraph system. The estate was enlarged when bought by the Comte de Saint Victor, carving new terraces out of the calcareous soil. The hill whereon the vineyard parcels are located is a geographical oddity, containing Triassic limestone – very different to the granite and other soils in the region. This and the altitude to 300 metres explain Pibarnon’s great elegance and aromatic finesse. The Mourvèdre vines are protected from the fierce Mistral by the semi-circular amphitheatre of terraces. It is a quite breathtaking Provencal scene when visiting this estate, surrounded by intoxicating scents and aromas and majestic vineyards. Vineyard tasks are carried out by hand: severe selection means low yields. There is rigorous adherence to quality in the vineyard, including careful (and traditional) gobelet training, green harvesting (removal and disposal of some bunches of grapes from the vine before ripening begins) and keeping yields less than 40 hl/ha. The vines themselves are predominantly Mourvèdre, this grape dominating the red wine that is the only such wine produced by the château – no super-cuvées here. In addition there is a fine rosé produced by the saignée method (bleeding the juice off the red grapes following sufficient contact to impart the pink colour) from young Mourvèdre and Cinsault vines, as well as a white wine, produced from the traditional varieties of the region; Clairette, Bourboulenc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Petit Manseng. This white is mellow and vinous and develops a wonderful freshness that delights the palate, accentuated with flavours of white flowers (jasmine, lime flowers and hawthorn) and fruits (such as pear and peach). The winemaking for the red is traditional with three weeks vatting and daily pigeage to obtain dark colour and long potential lifespan. The wine is then matured in large oak barrels for eighteen months with up to fourteen rackings to air the Mourvèdre. Initially, Pibarnon is vibrant with stone-fruit, blackberry and violet aromas, but subsequently develops sophisticated secondary aromas of tobacco, leather, pine, and dried fruits. “From Bandol, tart in the finish, a little too flinty for my companion, but my teeth appreciate a hint of limestone in a grape. There is something manly and voracious in it somehow, as though one is drinking the rocky underpinning of the planet.” (Howard Jacobson) Unique, tongue-larruping wine to be tried with grilled meats, venison, hare, truffles and goat’s cheese. Alternatively, put this in a dark corner of the cellar and forget about it for five years.