Today's tour and tasting at Domaine Tempier in Bandol gets put on our short list of truly special visits. Greeted by family member Véronique Peyraud Rougeot, we spent hours barrel and tank tasting the young wines, comparing all of the 2013 single vineyard reds, trying their Bandol Blanc and current vintage rosé, walking around the beautiful property while hearing stories of her famous mother Lulu, father Lucien, and the rest of her close knit family.
Lulu inherited Domaine Tempier from her father Alphonse Tempier in 1940. Originally the wine produced there was sold in bulk and the majority of the land was planted with peach orchards. But when Lulu and husband Lucien took over the property they wanted to focus on quality - Bandol had just received its AOC status in 1941 and there was much excitement about the future of the region. Soon after, in 1942, Lucien bottled his first wine, the Domaine Tempier AOC Rosé Bandol.
Over time their holdings grew with the purchase of remarkable vineyard sites around the region, most of which can be seen from the property; first with the purchase of la Migoua, followed by La Tourtine and Cabassaou. From La Tourtine Lucien created his first red Bandol in 1951. Their total acreage is now 38 hectares spread over several parcels facing the sea on steep, sun-drenched slopes and they produce roughly 10,000 total cases of wine per year.
The estate is known worldwide for producing some of the highest quality Bandol wines and the family is known for their hard work, generosity and high standards. Lucien helped to shape the production standards of the region and pushed hard for a higher inclusion of Mouvedre. In 1945, he was elected chairman of the Bandol winegrowers’ syndicate, and in 1947 he became a member of the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine), the French AOC regulatory body. Original documents stated only 10% of the blend needed to be in the mix but knowing the quality potential of the grape, he fought for more. Lucien's persistence raised the percentages to 20, then 30 and now today's Bandol Rouge must contain at least 50% Mourvedre.
While Lucien was gaining fame as a producer, Lula was known for her love of Provencal cuisine. Any press you read about Domaine Tempier contains as much about Lulu's cooking as it does the famous wines. I first read about her in a recent Saveur article where her food is described as "Simply put, Lulu's food embodies the best of French home cooking, marked by Provençal simplicity and elegant restraint." We were happy to see the cookbooks for sale at the Domaine and Veronique asked if we wanted her mother, now 99 years old, to sign our books. Well of course! What a special treat! I've listed one of her recipes at the end of this post.
When we had finished our tasting Veronique asked me if we would like to taste an older vintage rosé. My eager "yes please!" sent her off to a back room and after some time she emerged with a dusty bottle of 1999 Rosé that was simply incredible. Vibrant acidity, the telltale salinity with the dusty, honeyed, rose petal aromatics - it was a fantastic example of the aging potential of a well made Bandol Rosé.
As we emerged from the cool cellar into the warm windy Provence day, we all felt like fast friends of Veronique and her family. The connection they have to the land of southern France, their passion for what they do and the warmhearted way in which they embrace and welcome outsiders makes for a touching and very special visit. Thank you Veronique, you've made us fans for life! And oh, yes we loved the wine as well! :)
Lulu's Tapenade Recipe
Most every restaurant we visit here in Provence brings you a small complimentary bowl of their house olive tapenade, spread on toasts it is lovely with the local rosé. Here is Lulu's version that the book states is "one of the trademark Tempier appestisers".
from Lulu's Provencal Table
1 garlic clove, peeled and pounded to a paste with a pinch of coarse salt
Small pinch of cayenne
1⁄2 lb large Greek-style black olives, pitted
3 T. capers
1 tsp. chopped young fresh savory leaves or pinch or crumble dry savory leaves
4 salt anchovy fillets or 2 whole anchovies, well rinsed and chopped
4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
In a food processor, reduce the olives, anchovies, capers, garlic, cayenne and savory to a coarse purée. Add the olive oil and process only until the mixture is homogeneous-a couple of rapid whirls.