A bit player in the world of red wine grapes; but like many talented bit players, its impact tends to be underappreciated.

This grape is used widely--in limited amounts--in the wines of the Rhône valley, notably Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape, in order to impart some body, color, and flavor (tastes one source described as reminiscent of pine needles, which sounds intriguing to me).

In parts of Languedoc and California it is bottled as a varietal, but its starring role is in the appellation Bandol, named after a resort town in Provence. These wines offer spicy taste, medium body, and a tannic structure that allows them to age. Superlative examples of Bandol may require up to twenty years' aging.

This is a demanding grape, requiring lots of sun and warm weather; this may explain its limited plantings throughout the world. It will be interesting to see whether this varietal gains in popularity following the superior and much-heralded 1998 and 1999 (and, some would say, 2000) vintages in the Rhône valley.

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