Several years ago, Kermit’s children were attending grammar school in Provence during the months he worked tasting and selecting wines in France. One day when he picked them up after classes, a charming lady walked up and asked if he would drop by one day to taste her Bandol. Little did they know that it would be the perfect fit. Domaine de la Tour du Bon rests peacefully atop a limestone plateau in Le Brûlat du Castellet, in the northwestern corner of the A.O.C. Bandol. Nestled beneath the mountains to the North, it is a bastion of tranquility, an oasis on the Mediterranean surrounded by beautiful gardens and vineyards with emblematic names like La Rémoise (The Dweller), Saint Ferréol (a local saint), Ensoleillade (Place Bathed in Sunshine), Clos des Aïeux (Clos of the Forefathers), l’Aire (the Aerie), and Bellevue (Beautiful View). The Hocquard family has been farming this land since 1968, though this has been a full-time farm since 1925. Today, Agnès Henry runs the show. Independent, quick to laugh, and modest enough to be self-deprecating, Agnès has come into her own. For years, she worked in tandem with a hired winemaker to make La Tour du Bon’s wines. Though they made wines that won great acclaim, they did not always reflect her own taste. Not surprisingly, once she finally set her mind to making them on her own, she hit her stride, crafting wines with power and precision, but also finesse and charm. Who better to understand how to make the wine than the person who knows the story of the land the best?
The domaine is situated at an altitude of 150 meters above sea-level—a high point on this coastal appellation where maritime breezes cool the arid climate. Fourteen hectares of red earth, clay, sand, and gravel rest upon sturdy limestone bedrock. Brow-beating excavation and focused determination alone have built these vineyards. Agnès still has early photographs of the Mauric family, who lived here before the Hocquards, working the soil. Knee-deep into the red earth, behind heavy plows, vineyard workers toiled to bring this land to its current glory. (The tradition continues even today.) The copious rock served as sturdy material for building the house and walls that surround the property. The limestone has most importantly left its trace in the wines, instilling them with tremendous complexity, long length, and fresh elegance that makes them ideal for cellar-aging.
The blanc is made up of 85% Clairette, 10% Vermentino, & 5% Ugni Blanc. Juice obtained by direct pressing and vinification occurs in stainless steel vats and the wine may or may not go through malolactic fermentation depending on vintage.
The rosé is made from 35% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 25% Mourvèdre, & 10% Clairette. Juice is obtained by direct pressing. Vinification occurs in stainless steel and the rosé does not go through malolactic fermentation.
The Bandol rouge is 55% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, & 5% Carignan. Grapes are fully de-stemmed and are vinified traditionally with indigenous yeasts. Judicious use of punch-downs and pump-overs during fermentation and the wine ages in foudres for 18 months before bottling.