“Easily the most widely recognized estate in Bandol, Domaine Tempier has been run by the Peyraud family since 1936. Today, with the passing of Lucien Peyraud in 1996 and the retirement of sons Francois and Jean-Marie, the estate is run by the tall, energetic and talented Daniel Ravier—who speaks with a refreshing honesty and humility. Looking at the reds, the estate fashions four cuvees, a classic Bandol from a mix of terroirs, and three single vineyards—La Migoua, La Tourtine and Cabassaou. Lying outside the village of Le Beausset, the La Migoua vineyard is the highest elevation site of the three and sits at 270 meters above sea level; it consists of diverse clay and limestone soils. Possessing the smallest amount of Mourvèdre (~55%) and the most Grenache, this cuvee is always slightly less powerful and rich than the other two single vineyards, yet is always the most perfumed and complex. The La Tourtine parcel lies at a slightly lower elevation, in the Castellet region, and is more homogeneously clay soils. This parcel yields a powerful, rich, concentrated and surprisingly polished Bandol that has the fruit and texture to impress in its youth, yet the concentration to age beautifully. The smallest parcel is the Cabassaou, which lies below the Tourtine parcel in a more sheltered, warmer terroir. This cuvee has the highest percentage of Mourvèdre (upwards of 95%), as well as some of the oldest vines of the estate. It shares similarities to the Tourtine cuvee and is a rich, powerful, seriously impressive wine that every wine lover should taste once (preferably more) in their life.”
Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate (225)
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.