Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wine of the Week - 1994 Tempier Bandol

1994 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge, Kermit Lynch Imports, current vintage is 2006 and price is about $50. Sometimes you just have to open a special bottle of wine. We had one of those nights this week. BrooklynLady has been dealing with all kinds of stressful changes at work, the same for me, and our 5 month old has decided to wake up each night between 2 -3 AM, and start screaming. We're tired and we're stressed, and we need a vacation that we're not going to be able to take. And to top it off, the Yankees seem to turn into little league players every time they face the Boston Red Sox.

So, we opened a phenomenal bottle of wine on a humid and rainy night, and wow, did we feel better. Actually, I've been looking for a reason to open this wine for a while now, and our collective mood along with a beautifully marinated set of beef kabobs turned out to be just the thing.

I don't want to overdo it with the lavish praise, but this wine is a beautiful thing, and a great example of why aging wine is so rewarding. It was stunning on its own, a wonderful partner to our dinner, and totally and completely delicious. And it's only the Domaine's basic red, and from what is considered to be one of the more forgettable vintages in recent Provence history.

Domaine Tempier
is widely considered to be among the finest producers in Bandol, and therefore in all of Provence. The Peyraud family, the family that is credited with defining the modern Bandol AOC in the 1940's, continues to run the estate and make the wines. For more on this, check out Bert Celce's profile on the estate on Wine Terroirs - full of excellent photographs and information.

Tempier, as with most of the top estates in Bandol, farms with the most minimal of chemical interventions, and uses natural yeasts to ferment the red wines - these are natural wines through and through. The Bandol Rouge is made of grapes from all of the Tempier parcels and reflects a blend of all of the terroirs. The blend is typically 75% Mourvèdre (appellation rules require that a Bandol rouge contain a minimum of 50% Mourvèdre), the rest Grenache and Cinsault.

This wine was fantastic right upon opening, with a vivid perfume of tobacco and earth, fruit liquor, and something very animal, like horses. A beautifully mature and rewarding nose, the primary fruit long gone, and it got deeper and deeper over the course of the three hours it was open. The palate is sweet and ripe, and there is great balance. The acidity is still vibrant, and here there is the memory of sweet strawberries. The finish is an encapsulation of everything that happens in the wine, the soil, the echo of ripe fruit, the tobacco, the acidic snap. But the most impressive and memorable thing about this wine is that thing that is so prized in mature Bandol - the texture. It is absolute velvet, the tannins present and providing structure but so smooth and sweet. Truly memorable, what a wine! makes me feel so good about the other Bandol sleeping in the cellar.


Iris said...

and next time, you open a bottle of Tempier, read the beautiful chapter of Kermit Lynch's
"Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France" about the domaine Tempier or prépare a meal following Richard Olney's cookbook « Lulu’s Provencal Table » - I had the chance to meet Lucie Peyraud at a slow food conference, two years ago, where we both presented our wines - a beautiful old lady, charming and still an excellent ambassador of the impressing wines of the domaine:-)!

Lars said...

Although I still have a bottle of 1995 La Tourtine cellared since release from their Luxembourg importer, I've also enjoyed over the years Domaine Tempier, especially their single-vineyard wines, La Tourtine and La Migoua. I've fond memories of 1993 La Migoua, for example. In the nineties, some critics felt Tempier had difficulties with reduced off-odors as well as brett. As at Beaucastel, the stinky aromas can often be attributable to Mourvèdre, but both iconic domaines have been replacing their old foudres with newer ones.

What I've begun to miss in many of the wines from the southern Rhône and, in particular, Bandol is the cut and leaner profiles. With the exception of the poor 2002 vintage, the past decade has seen a string of excellent vintages, but with it exceedingly high alcohol levels. Instead of the normal 13 or 13.5 degrees, some Bandol are now above 14.5 or 15 degrees. This is a big problem in Châteauneuf as well, especially with Grenache.

Several years ago, a friend and I made a second trip to Provence, including Bandol, where we tasted and purchased mostly the '01s from Tempier, Gros'Noré, Pibarnon, and Pradeaux. Daniel Ravier, the amicable winemaker at Tempier, explained to me that it has been really difficult in the past vintages to avoid having such high alcohol levels because the phenolic maturity is lagging behind and needs more hang time.

Since the 2002 vintage, Domaine Tempier has discontinued bottling cuvée spéciale (first year was 1968), which is now added to the blend of cuvée classique. The "regular" cuvée spéciale was based on approximately 80% Mourvèdre from around the cellar and 20% Grenache from La Migoua. La Migoua and La Tourtine were first bottled separately in 1979. So, Tempier now makes four red-wine cuvées: classique, La Migoua, La Tourtine, and Cabassaou.

You'll also notice that after the 1999 vintage, Tempier finally moved to a normal sized bottle. They use to have a slightly shorter one. This was fine, but the trend in many wine regions is toward taller, heavier and more pretentious-looking bottles.

Adam said...

I just had the 1995 La Tourtine at Eleven Madison Park during a recent dinner where the evening was set up for the white wines to grab centerstage (you can check this post for the total lineup

I have had all the cuvees before, but never the La Tourtine. Tempier Bandols are ageworthy and super high quality for the value, and I often end up finding the best quality to price ratio on lists with these wines. I was just amazed by the 95 La Tourtaine. It is showing all the advanced aromas and flavors one would hope for after laying it away for this long, and if you only have one left, no rush, there is another 10 years at least to go. But, there is no reason to wait if you are itching to go. It is silky and has the layers of complexity from age heaped in already.

For me, it stood tall next to the 96 Zind Humbrecht as wines of the night.

TWG said...

Could be worse, could be a Mets fan.

Do Bianchi said...

who knew that one could suffer from Mourvèdre envy? Sorry that you are so stressed lately (and I remember what a drag the weather can be in NYC at this time of year) but I'm glad that you rewarded yourselves and us with this great bottle and great tasting notes... I SO WANT TO DRINK THAT WINE... a propos Eric's post on the pleasure of drinking wine (as opposed to purported health benefits), I think this is a great example of how a wine can bring joy and subsequent health into our lives...

I also love TWG's Young Frankenstein joke...

Brooklynguy said...

hi Iris - thanks for bringing that up. I've been meaning to read that for quite a while now. I doubt I will wait until I open another tempier though - that might take too long.

Hi Lars thank you for another informative and interesting comment. About phenolic ripeness: what accounts for this change? why would it take longer to achieve now than it used to? isn't the weather warmer now than it was?

hey adam - they have a great list, and that sounds like a real find.

TWG - nice!

Jeremy - no worries, everything will be okay, but thanks for your concern. sounds like you need to lay down some Bandol...

Lars said...

Hi Neil,

Please excuse my long-winded comment. Back then, I didn't ask Daniel why this was so. I guess in warmer vintages phenolic ripeness often gets behind sugar ripeness. If he picked early the wines would be green and unripe. This problem is not unique to Bandol, it's also an issue here on the Mosel, especially for growers seeking long-lived, structured dry wines. The extreme 2006 vintage is an example.