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Monday, July 14, 2008

A Vertical of Pibarnon

2007 Rose
While the rose was bottled only a week ago, there was little evidence to suggest bottle shock. The blend of half Mourvedre and half Cinsault (Bandol rose tends to be a bit more structured and full bodied than Provencal rose as there is a higher requirement of Mourvedre demanded by the A.O.C.) displays lead, strawberry seed, rose petal and mushroom aromatics in the nose. The sweet attack rolls into a full body of round, yet crisp flavors that reel in a nice touch of finesse on the finish, 88 points.

2005 ‘Les Restanques’
A VDP from Pibarnon, which is essentially a second wine, crafted from younger vines in a more accessible fashion. Unlike the top cuvee, Restanques uses 30 percent Grenache (which is evident in the wine’s softer, approachable persona) and the ’05 boasts a spicy, dark bouquet of chocolate, pepper, roasted nuts and dark plum sauce. The wine is a middle weight in the mouth, with round, suave textures that let a smoky asphalt hint peek in through the beefy spine, 87 points.

2002 Pibarnon
The historic rains that inundated the Southern Rhone also took their toll in Bandol, rendering the wines a bit lighter, but pleasant enough for early-term drinking. The Pibarnon ’02 didn’t show signs of dilution, but was quite mature, revealing aromas of dry rub spice, cured beef, lavender and lilac flowers. While medium in proportion and moderately tannic, the mouth-feel full of bracing, mineral driven acidity, carrying red currant and sweet tobacco flavors to a spine-tingling finish. This vintage should be drunk over the next few years, 85 points.

2003 Pibarnon
Although the 2003 vintage was atypically hot across all of Europe, Bandol seemed to be a bit more equipped to handle the extremes than most wine growing regions. The nose was deceptively soft and suggestive, weaving in and out exotic hints of orange peel, black tea, red cherries, incense and clove. The dial gets turned up a few notches in the mouth, as a forceful, torrent of savory flavors deepen in the midpalate, slowly unfolding its layers to reveal a rush of Asian spices that pop on the finish. This vintage is characteristically distinct from the rest, but really sets itself apart w/ its exotic flavors and tremendous persistence and should provide lovely drinking over the next 7 or 8 years, 89 points.

2004 Pibarnon
This is a big league vintage for Bandol and perhaps was the most dramatic and beguiling bottle of the bunch. The sauvage, smoky scents of barbeque spices, charred steak, pepper, tree bark and crème de cassis are just plain heavenly. The palate is dark and brooding w/ a power-packed punch, yet remains admirably defined and restrained, acting like a tap-dancing chameleon. The finish sails off wonderfully, thanks to a refreshing kiss of citrus, maintaining a sense of poise and finesse that belies its breed, 92+ points.

2005 Pibarnon
Analytically, the wine has more acidity than ’05 but seems a touch more plumper, w/ a bit more frankness to the fruit. Like Bordeaux, the ’05 for Pibarnon was very ‘vin de garde,’ offering the most richness as well as structure, serving up a heady array of sage, blueberry pie, cassis, underbrush and warm chocolate ganache. While there is a flirty and hedonistic sensibility about this wine, it is quite closed, yet has an undeniable generosity in terms of texture and purity. The long, silky finish ties in the impeccably balanced package, hinting at some serious upside for ’05 in the cellar. Even the more patient fans of this estate should hold off on gratifying themselves w/ a bottle of this until after 2015, 93 points.

1999 Pibarnon
Like Chateauneuf in ’99, this vintage of Pibarnon is on a relatively quick evolutionary track, yet is still not mature. Hauntingly subtle, tempting hints of mint, crushed flowers, tilled earth and freshly picked mushroom scents shoot from the glass. An expansive mouthfeel throws down the gauntlet, burrowing brilliant flavors of hot blackberry sauce, game and black pepper to the powerful, grippy finish. Surprisingly, the ’99 Pibarnon was the most rugged wine of the bunch, flexing a more tannic muscle than its younger siblings (though I doubt it had a greater volume of tannins), 90 points.

I also tasted through the most recent vintages of the Pibarnon white wines, the ’06 and ’07. They are both blends of Clairette and Bourbolenc, completely fermented in stainless steel and undergo no malolactic fermentation, putting freshness at a premium. They are straightforward, uncomplicated wines, offering up a decent core of golden delicious, honeydew and white flower notes in racy, focused frames. The ’07 gets the slight nod, as it was a bit more suggestive, verging on the tropical elements of kiwi, nectarine and pie crust flavors.

’06 Pibarnon White 84 points
’05 Pibarnon White 85 points

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