Grapevine Archive for Bandol
During a recent trip to the Rhône with Society buyer Marcel Orford-Williams, we were given the opportunity to taste with Daniel Ravier of Domaine Tempier, and were treated to some remarkable mature bottles. But this region remains a well-kept wine secret.
Domaine Tempier lies at the heart of the Bandol region, cushioned between Marseille to the west and Toulon to the east. The area is a kind of natural amphitheatre, with sloping, terraced vineyards running almost to the Mediterranean shore. The story of Domaine Tempier is a fascinating one, and worth recounting.
First established in 1834, the Tempier family’s estate was initially a house just outside of the village of Bandol. For one hundred years the estate weathered various crises – from phylloxera to the Great Depression – until, in 1936, the young Lucie Tempier married one Lucien Peyraud. Lucien was as in love with the idea of winemaking as he was with Lucie and, following completion of his wine studies, began replanting Tempier’s 38 hectares of vineyards with grenache, cinsault and – vitally – mourvèdre.
It is this variety for which Bandol and Tempier are now, justifiably, most highly regarded. Mourvèdre is not an easy variety to grow well. It buds and ripens late, requiring milder winters and a long and hot period of ripening. It also likes water, but not so much that its leaves become so vigorous as to leave the berries in the shade. Susceptibility to downy and powdery mildew completes the picture of a rather fussy and capricious variety.
Tempier’s vineyards, however, are perfectly placed to accommodate all of mourvèdre’s needs: the Mediterranean climate provides the long, hot growing season but with the added bonus of proximity to the sea. The vines can have their heat and also just enough humidity to keep them happy. The Mistral is also still an influence here, providing cooling breezes that help to prevent against rot and mildew. But each vineyard is its own world, and three of Tempier’s stand out so well that the estate bottles them separately: La Migoua, La Tourtine and Cabassaou.
Each vineyard’s terroir and aspect contribute to the individuality of the wines there produced. La Migoua is perched on the south-facing slope of Le Beasset-Vieux, a hill of clay soils with some chalk and ancient veins of muschelkalk. The mourvèdre here is complimented by cinsault and also a little grenache, and the wines have a slightly wild, animal note to them. Still, the 2012 we tasted with Daniel was concentrated and complex, with a surprising elegance.
La Tourtine vineyard lies at the top of a hillside near the village of Le Castellet and, as such, is well exposed to both sunshine and wind. The resulting wines (usually made with around 80% mourvèdre) are concentrated and fine, with structure and spice and an obvious propensity to age well.
The Cabassaou vineyard is the most mourvèdre-heavy of Tempier’s three vineyard parcels – it accounts for 95% of the blend. The terroir is perfect for the variety: sheltered from the worst ravages of the Mistral by the hill at Le Castellet, the vineyard receives instead a constant, gentle breeze to temper the summer sun’s heat. The wines are powerful and dense, and are capable of ageing phenomenally well.
After a fascinating tasting from barrel (and Tempier has a wide variety of different barrels!), Daniel treated us to three very special bottles.
Domaine Tempier Bandol Blanc 2005: Honeyed, round with hints of orange peel and nuts, this was absolutely delightful. The texture was creamy yet light and bright with lovely fresh acidity. The finish was long and clean and redolent of butterscotch.
Domaine Tempier Cuvée Migoua 1987: Spicy, leathery nose with a dried red fruit and currants. There is clove and dried herbs on the palate, with a little sweet fruit and fine tannins remaining. A mature wine, so be sure, but still with plenty of freshness and lift.
Domaine Tempier Cuvée Speciale 1974: The nose is full of gentle spice and tobacco and dried mint. Silky, sweet tannins and wonderful freshness combine to make harmonious, complete wine. Some of the richness and generosity has faded here, but what remains is complex and ethereal.
The first trip is in the bag. This was the first of three visits to the Rhône Valley. By the time I will have finished in November I will have tasted from a hundred or so producers.So far, so good. Lovely wines in 2011, wines that make one smile because they are so delicious. Very different to both 2010 and 2009, which is a good thing: much more uneven, it is true, but there are plenty of successes. Great Cornas with one of my best tastings ever at Domaine Voge. The southern Rhônes seem to have been especially good along that northern strip which includes Vinsobres, Valreas and the Massif d’Uchaux. For the first time I visited the Tricastin, a Cinderella appellation if ever there was one. On this leg of my trip I shall report later.
From Vinsobres, down to Bandol and Cassis where the vintage was in full swing and looking very good. For Domaine Tempier, incidentally 2011 will be an exceptional vintage.
Rhône 2012s look very promising though only a few whites were actually finished and these were fragrant and fresh in style, and not unlike 2011 which itself was good for whites.
There is still a little way to go and some Châteauneuf growers have barely started to pick. We shall see.
The job of wine buying often goes beyond the mere task of selection. We like spotting talent and working with young growers and winemakers over many years, sometimes helping them by broadening their horizons. I remember once turning up at the salle polyvalente in Vinsobres with a bootful of Australian shiraz and giving a tasting to an audience of Vinsobres growers. It was some occasion; even the Mayor was there with his tricolour sash.
Just before leaving for the Rhône, my colleague Toby Morrhall was playing host to a group of Chilean winemakers from Undurraga. Much of their time at The Society was spent in the tasting room, where they were given a tasting of Rhône wines. Different producers, styles and vintages, and a world away from South America. For me, the tasting was just what I needed on the eve of my departure.
This is what was tasted:
2007: Séguret, Cuvée Tradition, Domaine de Mourchon and Notre Dame des Celettes, Domaine Sainte Anne
Both grenache dominated and both absolutely gorgeous and ready to drink. The Sainte Anne probably has more keeping potential but both really lovely now.
2007 again: Terres d’Argile, Domaine de la Janasse, 2007
This comes from outside the Châteauneuf area but is made in much the same way and from a typically Châteauneuf blend of varieties. Sumptuous but no hurry to drink
2006: St Gervais, Domaine Sainte Anne
Mourvèdre dominated. Spicy and rich. Still very young and in need of another year maybe. But what lovely complexity
1999: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château de Beaucastel
Drinking very well now. Surprising density and concentration. Needed decanting.
1998: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine de la Janasse
Blockbuster wine. Very full, very concentrated. Again decanting needed to get the best out of it.
1995: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Clos des Papes
This was the best of these three Châteauneufs. Perfect, poised with great balance. Probably at its best though it will keep for ages.
And finally, Bandol, Domaine Tempier La Tourtine 1998
Sensational. Nothing else to say. Lucky Chilean growers.
The finest expression of Bandol is undoubtedly red but the rosé is vitally important too, providing a delicious, food-friendly wine with an ability to refresh the palate like none other.
The 2011 Tempier Rosé is delicious: a fine vintage, maybe a touch fuller than the 2010.
And so to the railway.
The TGV, undoubtedly one of the greatest rail projects of all time, very effectively links Paris to the Midi, but only as far as Marseille. It was always intended that a line would be built to Nice. A glance at the map shows just how difficult this is likely to be and for the moment plans will bring the line straight across the vineyard of Bandol. The growers have been there before. One of Lucien Peuraud?s last missions was to stop the motorway. Then he failed but times have changed and the building costs are likely to be huge. And the state coffers are a little empty?
Hopefully Mr Hollande?s favourite tipple is Bandol.
Just back from an exhilarating week in the Midi, taking in most points between Faugères and Bandol, finishing up in the northern Rhône and a first look at the 2010s.
The first thing to say was that it was very hot and that everywhere the vines are at least two weeks ahead of schedule. The vines are in full flower and the predictions are for a good size crop. Last year, the 2010 harvest, was very late, often picking in October. These early indications suggest that 2011 will be early, maybe late August for the northern Rhône, maybe earlier for parts of the Languedoc.
Another 2003 type vintage? Not in the south, or at least not yet as there is plenty of water and no signs of water stress. The vines look incredibly healthy. The photo by the way is syrah from the Méal slope on Hermitage.
All fruit crops are early with apricots already available and as good as I’ve tasted.
So there is still a long wait for 2011. The 2010s meanwhile, mostly still in cask, look very promising, dark, sleek and refined. More on that later.
Rhône, Southern France & French Country buyer