My friend Scott decided to educate me on one of his all-time favorite producers Domaine Tempier. This domaine is considered by many the maker of the world's finest rosé wine. But the reds from this esteemed property in Bandol are even more cherished among the inner circle of wine aficionados. Bandol reds are unique in that they are dominated by the dark, chocolate-and-olive flavored mourvedre grape, the minor ingredient of the main three grape varieties - Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache - of the much more famous neighboring Southern Rhone region that includes Chateauneuf-du-Pape. But Bandol in the South of France, in Provence, is the one place on earth where mourvedre reigns supreme and achieves its ultimate expression.
There is particular excitement around Tempier's reds in the 2010 vintage, because as I've been screaming at the top of my lungs to anyone who is listening - this is an amazing vintage across Europe. And that includes Southern France.
Thus the Tempier line-up featured three single-vineyard cuvees from the 2010 - La Migoua, La Tourtine, and Cabassaou, along with two from 2001 - La Migoua and La Tourtine, to examine how these wines age.
|Scott's incredible rack of lamb|
Indeed, the 2010's and the 2001's share much in common - dark bitter chocolate, garrigue (sage, rosemary lavender, pine, white pepper, scorched earth and stones), sandalwood and olive - all wonderful reflections of this beautiful sun-lit land in France that I have had the pleasure of visiting several times. The 2010's are incredibly structured - stern and aromatically restrained, a touch bitter, painfully intense, but with smoothness and plushness that resist rusticity. Cabassaou was the most serious and my favorite among the 2010's. To match the vigor of the young vintage, Scott prepared an out-of-this-world mesquite grilled, dripping-of-succulence, flavor bomb, medium-rare rack of lamb on top of mushroom-and-wine sauce infused couscous. A sprig of rosemary added just the right Provencal touch. Add another 12 years though, and the 2001's were singing, as haunting fragrance enveloped senses and the wines blossomed in the air and in the mouth. Of the two 2001's - La Tourtine and La Migoua - the La Tourtine was more expressive of meat flavors and had sharper focus and intensity, while La Migoua was more relaxed and broad. I preferred the La Tourtine, but both were lovely, and so eloquently represented the essence of Provence. With the 2001's, Scott offered shredded braised rabbit with gnocchi, with a few bits of sage complementing the scents in the wines. Both dishes mesmerized palates and did supreme justice to these soulful drinks.