Who: Agnès Henry.
Where: Le Brûlat du Castellet.
When: Since 1925.
A reference for organic Bandol, this estate has been run by Agnès Henry since 1990. Agnès’ parents had bought the estate in 1968 from the previous owners who’d made wine here since 1925.
For many years Agnès employed an assistant winemaker; the first was a young and ambitious Thierry Puzelat.
Since 2007, she’s made the wine on her own. In 2013 she was inspired to create a new Cuvée, En-Sol, from 100% Mourvèdre made in clay jars, suggested by her friend Elisabetta Foradori. En-Sol has in effect replaced the old vine Cuvée St Ferreol which was 80% Mourvèdre and is IGP Mediteranée since the laws of the Appellation require AOP wines to see a minimum of 18 months in oak barrel, small or large. It’s a brilliant wine and a fascinating expression of pure Mourvèdre from one of the most famous places in the world for this grape.
All of Agnès wines are charming, always with a rich fruit character but never heavy, always rounded and lifted by energy and freshness, the reflection of Agnès organic farming and gentle touch in the cellar.
The Bandol Appellation is strung out along the beautiful Mediterranean coast just east of Marseille in several communes, some more picturesque and bucolic than others, that have sadly been unable to resist the apparent non-stop pressure from property developers.
Tour du Bon enjoys a beautiful and quiet setting in Le Brûlat just a few kilometres inland from the sea between the Medieval hilltop villages of La Cadière and Castellet. At 150 metres altitude, it’s still surrounded by nature (and thus no pollutants) with stunning 360º views around from the sea to the mountains behind. Tour du Bon means Tower of Good; for many years ago there was a watchtower sited here to protect the local village. There is harmony and peace in the air!
The Domaine comprises 17 hectares comprising 12 parcels of vines in a single holding. The soils are ancient, predominantly clay-limestone, with part red clay and part white limestone and sand. The climate is gentle with an average of 300 days of dazzling, luminous sunshine, gentle sea breezes and low rainfall.
In the cellar, Agnès does as little as possible. The fruit’s de-stemmed, vinified in concrete tank and aged in large foudres, a mix of old and occasionally new. The wines are well structured and faithful to the Appellation yet the inclusion of a varying proportion of Grenache Noir, depending on the year, in the Domaine red creates a silkier, more luscious, and fresher style. In challenging years, a second, simpler red, Revolution, is produced. There’s also a limited amount of fabulous white, and an increasing volume of delicious, gastronomic Rosé.
Agnès exudes calm while discussing her work. She’s ever curious about how the wines are received, we always talk about organics, the environment, shopping for real food, the development of the locality. Out front is her potager where she grows fruit and vegetables, and she’s well versed in the local markets and farms which grow organic food.
Check out Agnès beautifully constructed website for a sense of her character!