Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tempier Bandol - the essence of Provence

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
An incredible culinary progression was wrapped around this theme, by the hands of my gifted chef friends Dan and Scott, with appetite-whetting lighter courses inventively delivered by Chef Dan, and more robust meat dishes by Chef Scott - hearty, herb-scented masterpieces, and with unmistakable touch of refinement to match the same in the wines.

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.

Dan's sophisticated tuna tar-tar with crunchy Parmesan crisps
Dan's incredible Parmesan, honey, truffle sea-salt  morel appetizer - an umami overload!
Dan's melt-in-your-mouth scallop with shitake, on top of shiso-lime broth.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

2010 Burgundy greatness brings on melancholy

2010 red Burgundies are soooo painfully good that I am shocked to admit I am becoming desensitized to $100/btl price barrier. In the past, I would only consider the mindbogglingly profound wines to sway me to consider spending north of $100. The world's greatest wine regions and producers have escalated their prices especially in a vintage as glorious all across Europe as 2010. Clearly the global demand for top Burgundy is on the rise. Great many red Burgs from 2010 are so excellent (delicious and age-worthy), that even at the village level they are hard to resist, even when approaching triple digits $$$. In the future the prices for this level of quality are likely to be even higher, maybe a lot higher. That's not to say that every 2010 is good, some are meh, so tasting is highly recommended before buying. But the average level is fantastic. Minimum 3-6 bottles for any self-respecting wine lover, and you are down half a grand, mind full of dreams of future delights. The scary thing is -- the *really* good stuff is now routinely crossing into the next order of magnitude (i.e. $1000+/btl). And even scarier is to think: even if I spent that kind of money, I would not be touching these wines for another 10-20+ years until they reach "prime drinking window" - what!!!? Like they say - "if you have to ask... (you can't afford it)..."

What kind of good wines have put me into this melancholic state of mind, you might ask?
Well, this past week it's been Comtes Lafon Volnay(s) - with the outstanding basic villages and the 1er Santenots du Milieu; and Maume Gevrey-Chambertin(s) - En Pallud villages, 1er Lavaux Saint-Jacques, and Mazis-Chambertin. Bordering on great, and still $100's (or $1000's) away from sublime. What will the next week bring?!!!

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