December 11, 2017, Lulu turned 100. Our Lulu is Lulu Peyraud, who, with her husband, Lucien, founded Domaine Tempier, and I’m glad they did, in hundreds of ways. More recently, I drove over to Domaine Tempier to have an apéritif with Lulu. One of her daughters, Laurence, invited me into the salon, and there was my old pal, now 101, shrinking into her chair. My heart was turning somersaults—she looked up at me with a black eye, five stitches above the socket, and one arm in a sling. I clumsily mumbled something and Lulu laughed. “Sit down,” she said, gesturing to the chair across from her. The small wood table had a platter of melon and saucisson, and a bottle of guess what. Laurence poured the red and Lulu raised her glass to me. She asked, “Did I ever tell you the one about the old widow who advertises for a new husband?” Sorry, folks, but her joke is not for publication in a wine brochure. Even mine! But I am just about finished writing a wine and food novel (or divertimento, as I like to call it), and I promise I’ll find a way to include Lulu’s joke. Yes, Lulu had taken a tumble there at home. When she finished laughing with me at her joke, she said that laughter is an important aid as she copes with old age. It keeps her positive. What a gal! What an inspiration! By the way, the swing on the label shows Lulu’s favorite exercise machine. Her family and friends saluted her one-hundredth birthday in a lot of ways—dinners, parties, and receptions. Now, here comes a salute we can all enjoy—Domaine Tempier’s 2017 classique dedicated to her on the label. Uncork one and raise your glass to a wonderful woman who changed my life and a lot of people’s lives for the better.
Of all of the domaines we represent, no other serves more as our cornerstone, stands more in the defense of terroir, and is more intricately interwoven with our own history, than that of the iconic Peyraud family of Domaine Tempier. When Lulu Tempier married Lucien Peyraud in 1936, her father gave them Domaine Tempier, a farm that had been in the family since 1834. Tasting a pre-phylloxera bottle of Tempier Bandol inspired Lucien to research the terroir extensively. By 1941, thanks to Lucien and neighboring vignerons, Bandol had its own A.O.C. Lucien will forever be celebrated as the Godfather of Bandol. Raising deep and structured wines of such refinement and longevity has made Domaine Tempier truly a grand cru de Provence.
Perhaps there is no region more closely aligned with the history to Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant than Provence. Provence is where Richard Olney, an American ex-pat and friend of Alice Waters, lived, and introduced Kermit to the great producers of Provence, most importantly Domaine Tempier of Bandol. Kermit also spends upwards of half his year at his home in a small town just outside of Bandol.
Vitis vinifera first arrived in France via Provence, landing in the modern day port city of Marseille in the 6th century BC. The influence of terroir on Provençal wines goes well beyond soil types. The herbs from the pervasive scrubland, often referred to as garrigue, as well as the mistral—a cold, drying wind from the northwest that helps keep the vines free of disease—play a significant role in the final quality of the grapes. Two more elements—the seemingly ever-present sun and cooling saline breezes from the Mediterranean—lend their hand in creating a long growing season that result in grapes that are ripe but with good acidity.
Rosé is arguably the most well known type of wine from Provence, but the red wines, particularly from Bandol, possess a great depth of character and ability to age. The white wines of Cassis and Bandol offer complexity and ideal pairings for the sea-influenced cuisine. Mourvèdre reigns king for red grapes, and similar to the Languedoc and Rhône, Grenache, Cinsault, Marsanne, Clairette, Rolle, Ugni Blanc among many other grape varieties are planted.
Let the brett nerds retire into protective bubbles, and whenever they thirst for wine it can be passed in to them through a sterile filter. Those of us on the outside can continue to enjoy complex, natural, living wines.
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