Lately, I have been catching up on my wine literature. Right now, by the bed stand, I have been picking away at Kermit Lynch’s Adventures on the Wine Route, a light, humorous, yet incredibly informative account of his tales and tastings around France in his early years as an importer. He doesn’t speak above or below… he speaks from experience, as a human being who simply wants to tell stories about where wine has taken him and why he finds it so fascinating.
One place he returns to incessantly is Bandol, a quaint village tucked away in the heart of Provence. Particularly, he speaks of Domaine Tempier. Though he holds the wines of Tempier above all others in Provence, what he seems fixated on isn’t even so much the wine itself as what and whom the wine represents. Domaine Tempier is a family, a tradition, and a woman named Lulu.
You may remember me discussing Lulu a while back when I wrote on Bedrock Winery’s ‘Ode to Lulu’ rosé out of California—one of my favorite domestic rosés, which is made of 100% old vine Mourvedre (as is the rosé from Domaine Tempier). Well, back then, and up until the other night, I had tasted Domaine Tempier’s wine, but I didn’t really understand the allure. Don’t get me wrong, they were terrific… but I just felt like I wasn’t getting what some other people tripped over themselves describing in Lucien Peyraud’s wines.
I then read Lynch’s chapter on Provence. Two days later, I tasted a 2005 Domaine Tempier Blanc. And it clicked.
This wine presented itself in the most curious way, displaying notes of mushrooms, salt water, but above all… age. I love that smell. On the palate, white flowers could be located amongst baking spice and a generous dollop of almond paste. Yes, it almost marzipan in character. It was exquisite.
I have tasted many great wines in my short career, from Clos d’Estournel to Haut-Brion, Giacosa to d’Yquem. But the ones that really made an impression on me—the ones that transcended the mere olfactory, sight, and tasting senses—were the ones I got to know outside the bottle. As corny as it sounds, it was the story that really pulled it all together for me in a memorable way.
Reading Lynch’s account of Tempier, the festive meals, the conversations, and the lovely Lulu who drew so many to the estate for her cooking and hospitality, reminded me of Lopez de Heredia wines, I have obsessively recounted in past postings. Having gotten the chance to know Maria Lopez de Heredia herself, her steadfast respect for tradition and passion for olives, made the wine taste even better. Same goes for Steve Doerner at Cristom, Mike Etzel at Beaux Frerer, Diana Seysses at Domaine Dujac and Domaine Triennes, Olivier Humbrecht of Domaine Zind Humbrecht, and Chrystal Clifton of Palmina. I had the fortunate opportunity to get to know all these winemakers a little more face to face. Learning more about the winery, their philosophies, and the decisions that go into each bottle, makes every sip that much more complex.
So my suggestion, if you know you are about to experience something extraordinary, take it a step further, and do your research. Consider yourself lucky to taste the greats. It doesn’t happen often, even for those in the biz. Be sure to get as much as you can from each sip. It is so much harder to remember, when drinking wine has no context. For then, it is merely drinking wine.