A Provençal Wine for Winter: Domaine La Suffrene Tradition Rouge

The #Winophiles are traveling to Provence this month. Jill Barth of L’Occasion is our host and here’s her invitation post about the region and a new WineZine dedicated to it.

While everyone usually thinks of Provence for its amazing Rosé wines, there are also many great appellations for red and white wines. I wrote about a wine I fell in love with last year from Bandol. Bandol is widely known for its use of one variety, Mourvedre. It has been an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) since 1941.

The wine, I chose was Domaine La Suffrene Tradition , AOC Bandol Cuvée Tradition Rouge. It was 55% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 10% Carignan. It comes from different parcels which have soils with a limestone base, as well as clay and stone. The wine undergoes a cold soak before fermentation using native yeast. It then spends 3-4 weeks fernenting in concrete. It then undergoes malolatic fermentation on its fine lees in 50hl older oak barrels. It’s then racked a number of times during the course of the year and spends more time in even older barrels after the blend is created. Interestingly, the last stage of its ageing takes place in stainless steel. Despite its 15% Abv, it was not overpowering and was a fantastic complement to roast chicken last night, even my Dad who isn’t much for high alcohol wines enjoyed it greatly.

The wine has smoky, spice, cedar notes together with lovely black and red fruits. Silky tannins, good acidity, and an enveloping mouthfeel make this a great wine for winter dishes. Leather, tar, and bramble came in a third wave of the wine which had a long finish. Elegant, complex, and persistent on the palate, this one is definitely one that could age another 3-5 years. The wine I tried was a 2015 and was wonderful today but has a way to go too. I decanted it which I almost never do and the additional air brought out so many lovely notes in the wine it made me wonder why I don’t do it more often.

The winery itself has fragmented vineyards and started by selling its grapes to the local cooperative. It is today run by two men, a grandfather and his grandson. The grandfather has always worked the land and lived on the property. The grandson, Cedric Gravier, is the one who decided in the mid 1990s to bottle under their own label. The winery is located in La Cadiere d’Azur. Cedric moved to the family farm which he had visited as a child permanently in 1996. The launched their first cuvées in 1997-1998. The winery began converting to organic in 2018, a process completed in 2021.

The family have been growers for a century. In addition to organic viticulture, they are also interested in biodiversity and are doing something called agroforestry which is the planting of trees and vines on the same plot. They are fortunate to have vineyards at some elevation but also proximity to the sea and its healthy breezes. The terroir is such that they do manual harvesting, have low yields, and the plants are goblet-trained for the most part.

I haven’t been in Provence in many years but I still remember visiting Cassis, Marseille, and Les Baux when I lived in Dijon, Avignon, Nimes, Arles, the Camargue, Aigues Mortes,  Aix-en-Provence, Juan Les Pins, Antibes, Grasse, and St. Remy de Provence with my parents when I was in high school and visiting Saint-Tropez and sailing in Hyères Islands with friends when I lived in Italy. In another lifetime, I also spent time at TV fairs staying in glamorous hotels in Cannes. While all of that was amazing, it’s a long time ago now and it feels as though I am long overdue to see that beautiful region once again.

Provence Posts from Fellow Winophiles
Check out these great Provence ideas from my fellow French Winophiles. Join us on Twitter at #Winophiles on Saturday, January 15 from 11:00-12:00 am ET.

2 comments

  1. You picked a nice producer. Side note – they also make exceptional olive oil. Some good times you had in the south of France in earlier years!

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