Bandol Wine and the Magic of Mourvèdre with Author Dr. Andy James



How does Mourvèdre taste different from other southern French grapes that also produce full-bodied red wines? Did you know that Mourvèdre can age for up to 40 years but has stages where it shuts down completely? What would a 20-year-old Rosé taste like?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Andy James, author of Bandol Wine and the Magic of Mourvèdre.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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Three of you are going to win a personally signed copy of Andy James’ terrific new book, Bandol Wine and the Magic of Mourvèdre.


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  • What was it that drew Andy to make the move to Japan?
  • Why did Andy write a book about English writer and famous misanthrope Kingsley Amis?
  • What can you expect from Andy’s upcoming book about polarizing English writer Graham Greene?
  • How did the manga series Drops of God influence the wine world?
  • Why might you enjoy visiting the southern French town of Bandol for your next wine holiday?
  • What inspired Andy to write about Bandol wines?
  • What’s the format of Andy’s latest book, Bandol Wine and the Magic of Mourvèdre, and how does it differ from previous books about Bandol wines?
  • What’s it like to taste a 20-year-old Rosé?
  • Do Rosés have good aging capacity?
  • How much of the Bandol wine industry is attributed to Rosé production?
  • What surprising results came out of a blind tasting of €3 and €23 Bandol wines?
  • Which characteristics can you expect from the Mourvèdre grape in its youth?
  • What changes will you notice as Mourvèdre ages?
  • Why should you take the cork out of your Mourvèdre a day or two before drinking?


Key Takeaways

  • Andy gave a great description of how Mourvèdre tastes different from other full-bodied southern French red wines. I understand why it also often needs a blending partner.
  • I found it interesting that Mourvèdre can age for up to 40 years but has stages where it shuts down completely. I’m also going to try his suggestion of removing the cork for a day or two next time I open a bottle to see if it makes a difference.
  • I would have never thought a 20-year-old Rosé would even be drinkable let alone have some interesting taste components and contrasts.


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About Andy James

Andrew James is a Canadian who received a doctorate in 20th century English literature from Ulster University. He is currently a professor in the School of Commerce at Meiji University in Tokyo. He is the author of a monograph on Kingsley Amis and numerous essays on literature, biography and literary theory, but he is also a wine lover. An interest in the evolution of wine language led him to write essays on Robert Parker, the wine manga The Drops of God and the French wine novel Clochemerle. He contributes articles on French and Italian wine, along with winemaker interviews, to Académie du Vin Library’s online magazine Vinosity.




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Andy James (00:00):
Mourvèdre can keep on going and going and going 20, 30, 40 years, but it has stages where it shuts down and then it comes back to life again. So even after 20 years, you might think that, oh, the wine’s dead. It is gone, but just wait. It usually has a second or a third or a fourth life.

Natalie MacLean (00:19):
Wow. Good to know. So you would recommend decanting Mourvèdre before you drink it? It could take a day or two.

Andy James (00:26):
Yeah. What I prefer to do is open it a day or two in advance and let it breathe. You can also pour it into a decanter before you drink to sort of expose it to air.

Natalie MacLean (00:42):
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean, and each week I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started.

Welcome to episode 249. How does Mourvèdre taste different from other southern French grapes that also produced full bodied red wines? Did you know that Mourvèdre can age for up to 40 years, but has stages where it shuts down completely? And what would a 20 year old rose taste like? In today’s episode, you’ll hear the stories and tips that answer those questions in my chat with Dr. Andy James, who has just published a new book called Bandol Wine and the Magic of Mourvèdre. Three of you are going to win a personally signed copy of his new book. All you have to do is email me at [email protected] and tell me you’d like to win a copy. I’ll choose three people randomly from those who contact me

In my new book, Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much, I remember when my son was just four years old, he looked up at me and asked loudly when we were in the liquor store, why do we always have to go to the Boo Store, mommy? And he’d be spelling that B o o ss, because mommy writes about wine. It’s her career I would tell him in an equally loud voice, avoiding eye contact with other customers. And then I remember looking up at a lady with an over oaked Merlot and adding that’s why no one needs to call child services. Is it worrisome that my most poignant memories with my son took place in liquor stores? Well, I guess if I’d been a carpenter, we would’ve been chatting in the woodshed. Have you had any memorable moments in the liquor store? Let me know.

Here’s a review from Margaret Butner in Vancouver, B.C. “Natalie’s recounting of the world caving in on her evoked so many emotions: anger, lots, sympathy, and buckets, and admiration by the boatload. What she does for a living is so interesting. I’ve read Victoria James book Wine Girl as well and have so much admiration for both of them rising above the misogyny of other reviewers. I ached for her at times, but I think the strength of her story is not dwelling in the crappy times, but in rising from the ashes as she says. So much more rising and less falling. Thank you again for sharing your story with us, Natalie.” Well, thank you, Margaret.

If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear from you at [email protected]. If you haven’t got your copy yet and would like to support it and its message and this podcast, please order it from any online book retailer no matter where you live. Every little bit helps spread the message of hope, justice, and resilience. I’ll put a link in the show notes to all retailers worldwide at Okay on with the show.

Now, before I introduce my guest, let me tell you that two of you are going to win a personally signed copy of his terrific new book and title Bandol wine and the Magic of Mourvèdre. All you have to do is email me at [email protected] and tell me that you want to win a copy. I’ll choose randomly for those who contact him. You can contact me randomly if you like in fact.

To our guest, he was born and raised in Kingston, Ontario. Andy James played tennis and love to read and play Scrabble. He’s always been fascinated with words and he dreamed of becoming a novelist after graduating from Queens University, completing a graduate degree from the Mississippi State University, and then a PhD at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. He has subsequently become a professor in the School of Commerce at Meiji University in Tokyo and has published a new book, which I just mentioned, Bandol Wine and the Magic of Mourvèdre, although he’s published many other books, essays and other writings. And he joins us now from his home in Tokyo. Welcome, Andy. It’s so great to have you with us.

Andy James (05:27):
Hi, Natalie. Thank you.

Natalie MacLean (05:28):
Alright. So before we dive into your wine career, tell us how you ended up in Japan, because you actually went to school very close to where I live in Ottawa. You were in Kingston only two hours away. That’s a long journey down to Mississippi and then over to Tokyo. So how did you get there?

Andy James (05:44):
Yeah, it’s not such an exciting story, but my father was a guest professor in Japan just at the same time that I had finished my master’s degree in Mississippi. So he said, Andy, do you want to come and visit me in Japan? And I said, Dad I have no money. He said, I’ll pay for you. And I said, I’m going. So I went to visit him and then I just ended up finding a job teaching at a high school, and I really enjoyed studying Japanese. I got hooked on that and I enjoyed Japanese culture a lot. So one thing led to another and then I ended up staying.

Natalie MacLean (06:19):
Wow. So you must be fascinated with Tokyo. What is it that you like about the culture? Why didn’t you move back to Canada?

Andy James (06:26):
I don’t know, Natalie. It’s a difficult question because I do miss Canada. I miss my friends if they still remember me. But I think if you ask expats this question, you probably get a similar answer for most of them, that after a while living in a foreign country, it’s like an investment. You end up not just developing your roots there, but you become more marketable in the country where you settle down and all of your work experience, professional experience. For me, it was in Japan. So if I go back to Canada, it’s like starting all over again. And before you know it,  this is my life. So I think that’s kind of the way it developed. But I also really liked the fact that Japanese food is great. Do you like Japanese food?

Natalie MacLean (07:05):
Oh, I do. Yes, absolutely. It’s great cuisine. And then of course there’s sake. So does Japan make grape based wines? Is there much of a wine industry there?

Andy James (07:16):
Yeah, there is. The Japanese mentality is that they can overcome everything. So it probably has one of the worst climates in the world for growing grapes for wine because it’s very hot and humid and you get way too much rain. But they still try. And I would say that there are some places in the north of Japan, the northeastern part, that they can grow grapes and make pretty good wine. But it’s an ongoing struggle, and I think a lot of people are fascinated about with climate change. Maybe the northeastern part of Japan, which was too cold before –  maybe something like Scandinavia, Denmark and Sweden – now maybe soon they’ll be able to grow grapes they couldn’t grow before and make good wine.

Natalie MacLean (08:00):
Wow. Yeah, everything’s changing. Canada, too, of course. Before you got into writing about wine, you wrote a book on Kingsley Amis, the English writer, and as you say, famous misanthrope. He was also famous for the novel Lucky Jim among others. What drew you to him as a writer?

Andy James (08:17):
Yeah, I guess one thing that I came across with Amis early on was when he was writing his novels. He tried to imagine the reader’s face and he looked for signs of boredom in the reader’s face. And he was a writer who was really acutely aware of his audience. He’s extremely entertaining, but also polarizing. So some people hate him.

Natalie MacLean (08:39):

Andy James (08:40):
Well, because he’s misanthrope. Some people said he hated women, but he basically just hated everybody.

Natalie MacLean (08:46):
So equal opportunist, hater.

Andy James (08:49):
Yeah, exactly. So that’s who he was and he offended a lot of people. But I found him extremely entertaining. But at the same time, the polarized aspect was really interesting to me because I felt that people didn’t really take him seriously. They looked at him as kind of an entertainer, but not somebody worth really probing deeply. So that was what interested me.

Natalie MacLean (09:11):
I remember his famous description of waking up with a hangover, and all I remember was his mouth felt like a mausoleum and a small creature or a mouse had died in there. It was so good.

Andy James (09:25):
Have you ever had a hangover like that?

Natalie MacLean (09:26):
No, not that extreme, and I don’t aspire to. But I thought that writing is spot on, the feeling on a lesser scale. And then you wrote about another British writer, Graham Greene. Were you drawn to him for the same reasons or was he quite different?

Andy James (09:42):
Yes, some are the same. I’m working on my biography of Greene now actually and I’ll be finished it in the middle of next year. But there are some similarities, and actually Amis wrote a monograph, a short biography of Graham Greene in the 1950s, which was lost. And Amis was always bemoaning the fact that Greene wouldn’t die, and he just kept on writing novel after a novel. So he had to keep updating his notes all the time.

Natalie MacLean (10:06):
How inconvenient.

Andy James (10:08):
How inconvenient for Amis. But Greene was also very entertaining, as I’m sure, and also polarizing. So he had very strong opinions about politics and also about religion. And I think this combination of being very entertaining, but also touching some points that it could be controversial was what interested me in Greene. I’m working on this angle which is basically people haven’t really looked at his novels as meta fiction and meta fiction. To explain it simply is just that the writing is a comment on writing.

Natalie MacLean (10:42):

Andy James (10:43):
So you can look in the text of the novels and you can see what comments about what it means to be a writer? What is a good novel? What is a bad novel? All of Greene’s anxieties about writing. So that’s the focus I’m taking.

Natalie MacLean (10:56):
Oh, that’s interesting. And do you aspire to have those same elements in your own writing, to be polarizing, to be well entertaining? I’m sure that’s what many writers aspire to be but is that also something you try to incorporate yourself?

Andy James (11:09):
Not polarizing. No, I don’t go for that. I try to be, you hope that everybody likes what you write, but I guess I do try to incorporate my literary training, which means that I try to find a problem or an unresolved issue in the wine world, and then I research it. So basically, for example, why doesn’t anybody drink Gewürztraminer anymore? Go to Alsace and you ask the winemakers, why is it what’s going on with this? So you begin with the question you don’t know the answer to.

Natalie MacLean (11:38):
Okay, well let us know the answer then because you’ve just put it out there. So why don’t people drink Gewürztraminer? Is it because we can’t say it or most people are uncomfortable pronouncing it?

Andy James (11:48):
Yeah, I mean, it’s a good question. I think what they told me and also asked was that they blame the sommeliers really who keep on recommending dry white wines because they think that’s what the public wants now. So if you go to a restaurant, they hesitate to recommend a Gewürztraminer. And the other thing is the French no longer have five course meals where Gewüztraminer comes at the end with the cheese plate or with the dessert.

Natalie MacLean (12:13):
Yeah. Don’t they make Gewürztraminer in a dry style though as well?

Andy James (12:17):
Yeah. They do. But it’s still quite rich and people are put off. And the perception is that Riesling or something that’s lighter and drier and more chic is what people want now.

Natalie MacLean (12:28):
And yet we talk dry, drink sweet, especially with all the cuisines we eat. It almost demands something with some sweetness because they’re so spicy or hot or whatever.But also Gewürztraminer I find one of the issues – Gewürz means spice – but it actually doesn’t do well often with spicy foods. I don’t think it has enough acidity the way Riesling does. And so as you say, it’s a rich wine and it doesn’t have that balancing acidity. I don’t think people even get that far with it after looking at it on the restaurant list. And it’s like, no I think I’ll just pronounce Cabernet or whatever. Yeah. Okay, cool. You are also interested in the evolution of wine language and words. You wrote some essays on wine manga, The Drops of God. How does the Manga series influence wine language in your opinion?

Andy James (13:14):
Well, this was a Manga series that was popular in the 2010’s in Japan, really popular as you may know. And I think it’s also now popular in the US and Canada, too.

Natalie MacLean (13:23):

Andy James (13:24):
So what I understand is that it really captivated an audience that was not familiar with wine. The people in their twenties and thirties who some of them had disposable income, some didn’t, but they never thought about drinking wine. They were probably beer drinkers if anything. But the Manga was sort of iconoclastic because the main character would describe wine in a very non-traditional way. So he would talk about this wine reminds me of butterflies in his spring garden, and the other people would look at him like he’s crazy. Or some of them would say, oh that’s a great description. And so this was a common theme throughout. That you didn’t have to know anything about wine, you could just describe it however you want it with your own human experience. And I think this really attracted a lot of people.

Natalie MacLean


Andy James

Also, the Manga introduced a lot of wines between say, $10 Canadian dollars and $20. So people who aspire to a wine and food lifestyle and were sort of put off by wine language really got into it through this doorway I guess you’d say.

Natalie MacLean (14:28):
Right. Yeah. The television series is very popular. And Manga, forgive my ignorance, it’s part of the anime world or animated. Not cartoons. But I guess we call it the graphic novels. It’s kind of all in that genre.

Andy James (14:41):
Yeah, it’s similar to what they call graphic novels in English.

Natalie MacLean (14:44):
Yeah. Okay, cool. So now during a sabbatical in 2021, you lived in Bandol in southern France about 45 minutes away from Marseille. Tell us about this idyllic town on the French Riviera. What does it look like?

Andy James (14:57):
Well, I think one thing that it looks like is it looks like it’s full people.

Natalie MacLean (15:02):

Andy James (15:03):
It’s a retirement town really, but in the summertime. The population is about 8,000 people, but in the summer you get maybe three times that amount. People just rush to the southern coastline to the Riviera. And Bandol is one of the places they go to in search of sun. So it’s a very quiet town. It’s much quieter than some of the neighbouring places like  Nice or Marseille. Full of retirees. But they have beautiful beaches and they have great wine. So I think you can enjoy a really typical French small town experience if you go there, but you can also do a lot of water activities and of course enjoy great wine.

Natalie MacLean (15:42):
Great. And so why did you want to write a book about, how do you pronounce it Bandal or is it Bandol?

Andy James (15:48):

Natalie MacLean (15:49):
Okay. We get some pronunciation lessons here. So why did you want to write a book about Bandol wines?

Andy James (15:55):
Well, I’d been to Bandol once, I think it was 2016. And I was introduced to the Mourvèdre grape then and Bandol red wines and the Bandol Rosés, and I was really impressed with them. So I knew they made good wine, and I also knew that there were no books written in English about Bandol, which was interesting to me. I thought, wow this is really an intriguing region with a unique grape and unique wines, but no one has taken the time to write a book in English about it. There had been three books in French, the last one was 2013, and then before that 2006 and then 1991. But to be honest, none of them were very good from my perspective because they didn’t introduce all of the producers. They just focused on a few star producers, and they didn’t actually take the trouble of interviewing the producers and asking them what they thought about things. So I thought, yeah, maybe I can do it.

Natalie MacLean (16:53):
And that’s what you did. You interviewed, was it 70 producers, like wineries and grape growers?

Andy James (16:58):
I think I succeeded with 54 when I was there. There were about 65 wineries, but some of them are like two wineries would be owned by the same person with the same winemaker. So probably I could have gone to 60. And I succeeded with going to 54 and interviewing the owners and the winemakers and viticulturalists.

Natalie MacLean

Oh, that’s great.

Andy James

I did my best.

Natalie MacLean (17:20):

You did well. And how is this book different? How is it organized versus the previous books on Bandol? So you interviewed all of the winemakers, which is substantial. What’s the format of the book and how does it differ from the others?

Andy James (17:33):
Well, the two big differences. One is that I tried to include everybody because as you may know, there are a couple of books about Bandol. One is called Adventures on the Wine Trail by Kermit Lynch, where he wrote a chapter on Bandol. But it’s only about Domaine Tempier,  which is one of his star clients.

Natalie MacLean (17:53):
He’s an importer in California. Famous one. Yes.

Andy James (17:56):
So that’s one. And then another book is by another importer, Neil Rosenthal. And he wrote about his client, Chateau Pradeaux. So you’ve got these two presentations at two different domains, but when I was there, there’s still 63 other wineries. So this kind of interested me. And then I looked at the French books and they were both out of date. And also because at the time of the 2013 book, for example, there were only about 45 wineries in Bandol. So in the span of 10 years, you have 20 new wineries.

Natalie MacLean (18:27):
Wow. And how much wine does the region produce if you estimate it in bottles or whatever?

Andy James (18:34):
Well, I guess I could estimate it one way is in hectares. It’s about 1,700 hectares. It’s about a little bit smaller than Croze Hermitage, and it’s about the same size as Margaux in Bordeaux.

Natalie MacLean (18:46):
Oh, one estate. So Bandol the whole…

Andy James (18:49):
No, the Margaux Appalachian.

Natalie MacLean (18:51):
Oh, okay. Okay, gotcha. In Bordeaux. And so you interviewed 50 producers, big and small. You had tasting notes and reports on how the wine were made, and you also feature 25 of your favourite bottles from Bandol with photographs and food pairings, which is a nice edition. Assume you visited Domaine Tempier. And was it one of the most respected or exalted wineries in the region or was it just Kermit Lynch’s client and therefore that’s why he wrote about it?

Andy James (19:22):
No, I mean it’s a place you have to be a little bit careful of if you’re a Canadian, because it’s always crawling with Americans.

Natalie MacLean (19:28):
Americans are watching this and listening to this. So be careful.

Andy James (19:34):
No, I always find it interesting because when you go there, you will hear American accents flying around all over the place because Domaine Tempier is very well represented in the US by Kermit Lynch who sells his wines and represents them well. So Americans do make pilgrimages to Domaine Tempier to buy the wines on site and to taste the Rosé and the white wines too, and look out over the vineyards while they’re tasting them. It’s well worth the visit. They are using the original house, which is about 200 years old, is still in use.

Natalie MacLean (20:05):
Oh, wow.

Andy James (20:06):
So for historic reasons, it’s very nice. The funny thing is that most of their wine, almost all of their wine is allocated, which means that it’s sold as soon as it’s bottled. So if you want to go there and buy the red wine within about two or three months of it being bottled and commercialized, it’s all sold out at the winery. And they’ll have some Rosé, White left. But everything else you have to ask Kermit Lynch for.

Natalie MacLean (20:30):
He’s got a lock on that. And aside from Americans and Canadians crawling through the vineyards, you mentioned that there’s peacock. So are they just native to the region?

Andy James (20:40):
No, they’re not native at all. It’s just a quirky story about one particular winery that I visited. And this winery has 14 peacocks really. So when I went there for an interview, the son who is in his thirties sat down with me at a table outside of their house. And I just see these peacocks strutting around in the background, and I said wow this is incredible. You’ve got peacocks. And he said, yes, 14 of them. It’s worse than a death sentence.

Natalie MacLean (21:08):

Andy James (21:08):
I said, why? He said, well, they’re beautiful picturesque. And he said, well, because they live to be 40 years old and they’re completely useless animals. But I don’t know if that was the reason. He said that his father believes that the reincarnations of their ancestors.

Natalie MacLean (21:26):
Of their human ancestors.

Andy James (21:27):
They’re a little bit creepy.

Natalie MacLean (21:28):
Yeah, I can imagine. Do they eat the grapes?

Andy James (21:31):
I don’t think so. I don’t think so. They just strut around and look beautiful.

Natalie MacLean (21:36):
So you have been to a party where they served a 20 year old Rosé. Can Rosé really age that long? What did it taste like?

Andy James (21:44):
Yeah, well, actually I held one party where there was a 20 year old Rosé. I guess because it was a 2004. And we had a party at our house and I had received this bottle from one of the producers, Domaine de Yvette, and I was saving it up for these two, three really great producers from Bandol to try to surprise them and see what they thought about it. And they don’t drink the Rosé that’s that old.

Natalie MacLean (22:08):
Usually the advice is to drink it within a year or two of the vintage. Rosé is meant to be consumed fresh young.

Andy James (22:16):
So we shared it together and I probably had drunk more old Rosé than they had. So that was interesting for me. But I think the interesting thing about Old Rose is that it has a lot of interesting contrasts. That bottle in particular I remember had an aroma of petrol and candied fruits like candied orange slices. So immediately two very sort of contradictory contrasting aromas. And in the mouth, it was surprisingly light, but not terribly oxidized. But it had notes of Sherry as well. And then in the aftertaste, it still had structure and it was still firm. But the interesting thing is that as the wine loses its fruitiness and its primary fruit, with Bandol with a lot of more Mourvèdre , it gets really round in the body, almost chewy.

Natalie MacLean (23:03):

Andy James (23:04):
So you get these really nice sensations.

Natalie MacLean (23:06):
So you liked it the age.

Andy James (23:08):
I love it. Yeah.

Natalie MacLean (23:09):
And do you age your Rosés or just from that region? Or what advice would you give to people when it comes to Rosé or that one?

Andy James (23:16):
Well, the only two Rosé that I know which actually have aging capacity are the Bandol Rosé that have a lot of more Mourvèdre, because Mourvèdre is the key. And if they have a lot of Grenache and Cinsault, the other main grapes, they don’t age quite as well. But the other area is Tavel.

Natalie MacLean (23:32):
Right in the Rhone Valley.

Andy James (23:34):
Exactly, and they make basically all Grenache, but these are maceration Rosé. So they let the juice sit on the skins for several hours because they have a minimum color requirement. They have to have that particular darkness threshold that it goes past. So this gives it some of course some tannin, which helps to preserve the wine and more body. So a Tavel can easily go 10, 20 years. I had a 25 year old bottle of Tavel Rosé that was great.

Natalie MacLean (24:04):
Wow, I didn’t realize that. And they don’t do the saingée method of bleeding off like bottling the first round juice. They just do maceration.

Andy James (24:11):
So people actually erroneously say that in Tavel they do saingée Rosé. But as you said saingée is the bleeding off. So it’s an interesting sort of side story, but the way that people used to make Rosé in Bandol long, long ago was they’d have a tank for red wine grapes, and then they would let it sit for a little while, for a few hours or a few days, and then they would, as you say, draw off some of the free run juice. And then they’d take that and make light a Rosé wine. And the reason they did that was because they wanted to strengthen the red wine.

Natalie MacLean (24:46):

Andy James (24:46):
Because at that time, the red wine was judged by how powerful it was. That was the power and the alcoholic strength was the sign of quality. So you could concentrate the red and at the same time get some light juice and make a Rosé and sell the Rosé right away. So people don’t do that anymore. But some people in Bandol still take say 5% or 10% of the juice from a red wine tank and then add it to the Rosé wine.

Natalie MacLean (25:11):
Okay. Wow.

Andy James (25:12):
Because it makes it a little more explosive. They have some reasons. Some of them just do it because their parents did it and their grandparents did it.

Natalie MacLean (25:19):
Right. And in Tavel, if I understand correctly, just makes Rosé right? They don’t make a red or a white.

Andy James

That’s right.

Natalie MacLean

They are dedicated a hundred percent to Rosé. It’s my personal favourite Rosé style. There’s Château d’Acquéria and all kinds. In Bandol. What percentage is Rosé of the wine they produce?

Andy James (25:38):
Right now? About 75%.

Natalie MacLean (25:40):
Oh, okay. It’s mostly alright.

Andy James (25:42):
Yeah, so it’s a kind of a funny contradiction. Most of the wine makers would like to say that they’re red wine makers because red wine is more prestigious and you can get into Michelin restaurants if you have a good red wine. But Rosé wine is the wine of pleasure. So yeah, 75% now.

Natalie MacLean (25:59):
Yeah. Cool. Okay. So you also had a blind tasting with two Bandol wines. One was priced said about four euros or $6 and the other at 23 euros. So $36. What happened there?

Andy James (26:10):
Well, that was an interesting one. I had gone to a winery called Mas Thérèse. Mas means like a farm. So Theresa’s farm, I guess it would be the translation. But it’s a really, really humble place. And they didn’t have any Bandol wine that was ready. So they gave me the table wine or I G P wine. So it was four euros 80 cents I think. And I was quite impressed. It was very smooth and not terribly complex, but easy to drink, fresh. And it did have a few nuances. So I bought a couple of bottles, brought it home. And about a year later I had a dinner party and there were five guests at the dinner party. So just as a little bit of fun, I decided to do a blind tasting and I gave them the Mas Thérèse  wine with the 23 euro wine as you said. And I said, which wine do you prefer? Just tell me which one you like better and tell me which one you think is the more expensive. One of them is four euros and one is 23 euros. And so they all looked at each other suspiciously like what’s going on here? And they all preferred the Mas wine. And they all, except for one person thought the Mas Thérèse wine was more expensive.

Natalie MacLean (27:22):

Andy James (27:23):
And one of them said, I prefer the Mas Thérèse wine. They didn’t know what it was at that point. It was just blind bottle one, blind bottle two. But I prefer this bottle because it’s very easy to drink and very smooth and it’s obviously more sophisticated. But using the power of reverse logic, I would say that the wine that I don’t like as much must be the more expensive one, therefore, and everybody looked at her like, well, can you do that? Is that legal? She’s right. She was right. She was right. The reason is simply that I think it can be really easy to drink, very supple, has no sort of complications. It’s not tannic. And Bandol can be quite fearsomely tannic in its youth and a little bit thin and constricting. So the people who are being honest about the fact that they preferred the easygoing wine, but I still can’t really figure out why they thought it must be the more expensive one. That still baffles me a little bit.

Natalie MacLean (28:20):
Oh, maybe they associated liking with price quality? But were they wine knowledgeable people or were they sort of everyday kind of wine consumers?

Andy James (28:29):
Yeah, they all have wine cellars. They’re quite knowledgeable. They live in the south of France, but they’re not wine experts. And a lot of people don’t really like Bandol red wine in it’s youth because it is quite powerful. So a lot of people in the south of France will still drink very easygoing IGPs and bag and box wine because it’s so supple and easy to drink.

Natalie MacLean (28:51):
And when you say powerful, do you mean tannic mostly? Or what is Mourvèdre in its youth? The grape? How does it taste?

Andy James (28:59):
Well, it’s a little bit grumpy and growly. Mourvèdre is an antioxidant so it can be quite closed, not very expressive at times. It needs oxygen so you need to aerate it. You need to open it up a day or even two days in advance. It can also be quite thin and a little bit harsh if it’s grown in the wrong places. It needs some water reserves, but it also needs to be challenged to have lots of sunshine, to be close to the sea. So you get, well, a lot of bright red fruit I would say. And spice, licorice spice. You also get an element of herbal south of France, herbs in the nose. In the body, it’s actually quite narrow. It’s quite smart. It’s not like Grenache very plump and round. So usually Mourvèdre needs to have a blending partner. It’s much better if you blend it with Grenache, for example, or Cinsault which are more generous and sort of fill out the body a little bit.

Natalie MacLean (29:56):
That sounds like a Cabernet Merlot duo. They need each other.

Andy James (30:00):
Yeah, exactly. Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. It is a good comparison.

Natalie MacLean (30:04):
And you say it’s an antioxidant, so aren’t most big red grapes of that nature? Or is this unique to Mourvèdre when you say it’s an antioxidant kind of grape that needs oxygen to open up?

Andy James (30:17):
I think the other one that’s like this, Nebbiolo can be like that too, because they sort of close in on themselves and don’t reveal anything at certain times in their evolution. I don’t know that Cabernet Sauvignon is so much like that, but there probably are other grapes, as you say that the big tannic red grapes that are like that.

Natalie MacLean (30:37):
Yeah, like Tannat. And then what happens as it ages? You said it becomes more round. What else happens as Mourvèdre ages?

Andy James (30:45):
Well, one of the interesting stories that I was told by actually the technical director at Daniel Ravier, who’s a great interview subject and taught me a lot, he said that of Bandol the evolution is not linear. It goes up and down. So people are often tricked by it because you could get say a five-year-old bottle and it’s gone to sleep. The nose is down. It’s not very evocative or very expressive and you think, what’s going on here? And then you open it up a year later, another bottle of the same vintage and it’s beautifully opened up and everything’s going well. And then the next stage that’s interesting in…

Natalie MacLean (31:22):
Sorry, what causes the down stage?

Andy James (31:24):
I don’t know. Nobody really seems to know. It’s just Mourvèdre. It’s a grape that just can keep on going and going 20, 30, 40 years. But it has stages where it shuts down and then it comes back to life again. So even after 20 years, you might think people often do think apparently that, oh the wine’s dead, it’s gone. There’s nothing left. But Daniel Ravier, he always said to me but just wait. It usually has a second or a third or a fourth life.

Natalie MacLean (31:52):
Wow. Good to know. So you would recommend generally decanting Mourvèdre before you drink it? I guess you were saying it could take a day or two?

Andy James (32:01):
Yeah. I’m not really a big decanting guy because in France most people don’t decant and I guess they sort of educated me in that don’t decant. Especially with younger wines, what I prefer to do is open it a day or two in advance and let it breathe. You can also do a little carafe. You can, as you say in French carafe, you just pour it into a decanter before you drink to sort of expose it to air and shake it up a little bit. But with the older ones, I never would decant older wines.

Natalie MacLean (32:30):
Sure. They could fall apart, right.

Andy James (32:32):
=You ask another question. Yeah. Well, I mean I always think that older wines are like you should treat them like you treat your favourite grandmother. She doesn’t want to be jostled or shaken up. Treat her with respect, give her some space, give her some time, and she’ll probably be okay. So that’s the way I treat the old wines.

Natalie MacLean (32:50):
Right. Makes sense. But when you say you open it, are you just opening the bottle?  I didn’t think that that would do much. The airspace is so small. If you just open, take the cork out of a bottle, does that really do anything for the wine? If you’re doing that a day beforehand?

Andy James (33:07):
Yeah. For me it does. I was surprised too, but it really works wonders. So if you leave it for even 12 hours with the cork out, you’ll see a significant difference with a lot of Mourvèdre. One or two days, it should be completely expressive.

Natalie MacLean (33:21):
Interesting. Okay.

Well there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Andy. Here are my takeaways. Number one, Andy gave a great description of how Mourvèdre tastes different from other full-bodied Southern French red wines, and I understand now why it often needs a blending partner. Two, I found it interesting that Mourvèdre can age for up to 40 years, but has stages where it shuts down completely. I’m also going to try his suggestion of removing the cork for a day or two next time I open a bottle to see if that makes a difference. And number three, I would’ve never thought that a 20 year old Rosé would even be drinkable, let alone have some interesting taste components and contrasts.

In the show notes, you’ll find the full transcript of my conversation with Andy, links to his website and books, the video versions of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube live, and where you can order my book online now no matter where you live. That’s all in the show notes at Email me if you have a sip, tip, question, or would like to win a copy of Andy’s book or if you’ve read my book or are in the process of reading it at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you.

If you missed episode 39, go back and take a listen. I chat with Bloomberg columnist Elin McCoy about Robert Parker and whether wine scores really matter. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Elin McCoy (35:04):
One of my favorite comments from a review of my book was that it was a story about power and how you get power and how you keep power. I think it’s very illustrative of that. I actually was very happy at that review because I felt that at the bottom, that was what my book was about.

Natalie MacLean (35:27):
Yeah, the bigger theme.

Elin McCoy (35:28):
A bigger theme. There was this theme of power, not just wine, but also I felt that it was very American. The kind of story that people like in America, somebody comes out of nowhere…

Natalie MacLean (35:43):
Rags to riches like an E.L. Doctorow story like Ellis Island to fame.

Elin McCoy (35:49):
Yes, this is an American mythos, if you wil. The idea that you can come out of nowhere and by sheer din of hard work and smarts and all these things you can triumph, And somehow Parker’s story resonated with a lot of people.

Natalie MacLean (36:12):
If you like this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone who’d be interested in the wines tips and stories we shared you won’t want to miss next week when we continue our chat with Andy. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a full body, deeply flavored Rosé.

You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Meet me here next week. Cheers.