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Domaine Tempier Bandol Cuvee Classique 2011

Domaine Tempier Bandol Cuvee Classique 2011

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"A classic, textbook red Bandol that shows the vintage nicely, Tempier’s 2011 Bandol Cuvee Classique gives up complex saddle leather, wild herbs, flowers and layers of sweet fruit in its forward, supple and approachable personality. A blend of close to 75% Mourvedre and the balance Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan, this medium to full-bodied, rich and textured 2011 can be enjoyed anytime over the coming 10-15 years. Drink: 2014-2029. 90 points

One of the leading domaines in Bandol, Domaine Tempier is, without a doubt, the most visible producer from the appellation in the U.S. marketplace today. I think this is well-deserved (and a good thing for Bandol), as the wines are at the top of the hierarchy in terms of quality. The estate has been in the Peyraud family for generations and has a long, storied history that’s beautifully documented in Kermit Lynch’s newsletters and book, Adventures on the Wine Route (an absolute must read for any wine lover). The family is still going strong today, yet the wines are now made by Daniel Ravier. At this tasting, all of the wines showed brilliantly and possessed a surprising level of polish and texture, with no rusticity or coarseness at all. In addition to the wines I was able to review here, they also produce a white (60% Clairette, 19% Bourboulenc, 18% Ugni Blanc and the balance Marsanne), and a very limited red, the Cabassaou (95% Mourvedre, 4% Syrah and a splash of Cinsault). 

Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate (211)

Barely one hour's drive from Marseille, I can already picture those brightly-coloured sails bobbing up and down on an azure sea. This is Bandol AOC, created in 1941 and made up of a cluster of five small villages, centred around the eponymous picturesque fishing port overlooking the Mediterranean. One of these villages, the mediaeval Le Castellet, is where Tempier is based; an estate which has acquired almost mythical status (thanks in some measure to Kermit Lynch and Richard Olney).

First, a few words about this appellation which many rank as one of the world's great wine regions. This is in large measure due to the fact that the dominant red grape variety, Mourvedre, reaches the height of its expression in these predominantly clay/limestone soils, despite, or perhaps because of having to contend with the mistral, intense heat and an average rainfall of less than twenty inches per year. 

As all too often in the wine world, size is not always everything: Domaine Tempier extends to roughly 30 hectares with 28 devoted to the red varieties (Mourvedre, Cinsault, Grenache, Carignan and Syrah) and the rest to white. In fact, of the 120,000 bottles produced annually, 68% are red, 29% rose and only 3% white. Although centred on Le Castellet, the Tempier vineyards are spread over the three communes of Le Castellet, Le Beausset and La Cadiere, which is why the three single vineyard cuvees are so different in character.

The full range from Tempier comprises an estate red blend, Cuvee Classique as well as three single vineyard reds, La Tourtine, Cabassaou and La Migoua, the famous rose and an estate white. The Cuvee Classique is basically 70-75% Mourvedre, 2% Carignan with the balance of Grenache and Cinsault. La Tourtine is made from 40-year-old vines grown on a south-facing hillside in the village of Le Castellet. This particular site has tended to produce wines which, though powerfully tannic, are perfectly balanced by an opulent fruit character. Cabassaou is a sub-plot in the lower part of La Tourtine which is sheltered from the mistral by the headland of Le Castellet and, since it faces SSW, is blessed with the maximum amount of sunshine. These factors thus create the optimal ripeness in which Mourvedre truly thrives. Cabassaou is made from 50-year-old vines, the blend being typically 95% Mourvedre, 4% Syrah and 1% Cinsault. This cuvee is generally regarded as the top wine from this estate, having perfectly balanced intensity and rich, long-lasting fruit flavours. The third single vineyard cuvee from this domaine, La Migoua, comes from a vineyard on the southern face of Le Beausset, at an altitude of 200-270 metres above sea level. The soils here are of different composition - chalk and clay and this is where the Cinsault finds its natural home. This cuvee is generally composed of 50-65% Mourvedre, with the balance mainly Cinsault and a dash of Syrah.