Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Just another week at the Nottingham Wine Circle - another spectacular Domaine Tempier tasting

I've been typing up the notes for this entry, on and off, for the past 2 or 3 weeks, having been preoccupied with lots of other stuff. However, how could I not post a full report on the second major tasting of Domaine Tempier's wines at the Nottingham Wine Circle in the last 30 months? Let's be honest, most wine lovers would kill for just one such tasting! On this occasion, the wines were presented by two of the group's founding members, Roger Halfpenny and David Selby - and once again for the almost criminally low cost of £15 per person. Amazingly, whether by design or by accident, only two of the wines from that previous tasting were included in this one. So I make that 37 different combinations of cuvée and vintage in just 2 sittings And for reasons I will touch on at the end, it is worth reading both this and my previous report together, by way of a compare and contrast. I've said it before and I will say it again - I feel so privileged to be part of what must be the finest (and collectively most generous) wine tasting group in the country.

Roger Halfpenny and David Selby - and 19 bottles of Domaine Tempier!
Here's a quick reminder of the make-up of the various Tempier cuvées;
  • La Migoua is grown on 6 hectares of clay/limestone, at altitudes of between 180 and 270 metres, in the village of Le Beausset-Vieux. 50% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, 26 to 28% Cinsault and 2 to 4% Syrah. The vines are, on average, about 40 years old. Yields are between 30 and 35 hl/ha.
  • La Tourtine is grown on 6.5 hectares of clay/limestone, on a south-facing hillside in the village of Le Castellet. 80% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache and 10% Cinsault. Vines average around 40 years old. Yields are between 30 and 35 hl/ha.
  • Cabassaou is a small parcel on the hillside below La Tourtine, with similar soil. 95% Mourvedre, 1% Cinsault and 4% Syrah. The vines average 50 years old. Yields are kept to 25 hl/ha.
  • All of the above are field blends (from within each named vineyard). All of the grapes are de-stemmed, followed by a 2 to 3 week maceration and fermentation. After pressing, the wines are transferred to large oak casks (of between 25 and 75 hectolitres) and aged for around 20 months, before being bottled, un-fined and un-filtered.
  • Cuvée Classique is a blend of grapes from Migoua, Tourtine and Cabassaou and goes through an identical vinification process. The blend may differ very slightly, with each vintage - generally, 70-75% Mourvedre, 14-16% Grenache, 8-9% Cinsault and 2-3% Carignan, with yields of between 35 and 38 hl/ha.
  • The Rosé comprises 50% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache, 20% Cinsault and 2% Carignan, with the grapes sourced from all of the named vineyards, from vines averaging 20 year-old
Rosé 2003
Pale onion skin - almost orange. Evolved, winey nose. Rich - as to be expected with the vintage - but not cloying. Orange peel flavours, perhaps slightly pruney, but a surprisingly decent structure, with restrained power. *

Rosé 2001
Although 2 years older, this is much closer to pink, with shades of peach skin. Reeks of raspberries, cream and peaches. Amazingly fruity and alive, herby, soft, but beautifully structured. Long, and with years left in it. Lovely wine. **

La Tourtine 2001
From a classic warm vintage. The nose exhibits orange, raspberry, bramble and damp earth, with just a hint of savoury/meat and curry spices. Soft but nicely structured, with a massive core of red and black fruit. Medium acidity and tannin to match, making for a nicely balanced, approachable wine. That said, it has plenty of life left in it. **

Cuvée Classique 2000
Quite earthy, smoky and meaty, with notes of iodine and mineral notes behind the red and black fruit aromas and flavours. Perhaps a touch stalky, but not lean, although it is (as one would expect from a more "normal" vintage) less generous than the preceding wine. Plenty of acidity. A nice wine, which may improve further. *

Cuvée Classique 1998
Another warm vintage. A generous, expressive nose of leather, exotic spices, raspberries and cream, with an intriguing note of diesel and some classy oak. Generous on the palate as well, with rich black fruits and nice cherry acidity. This has aged so much better than most 1998 southern Rhones I can think of (and still has further potential, though it is good to drink now). Nice wine. **

La Tourtine 1994
Polished old wood and spice, with red and black fruits veering towards the secondary. Delightfully balanced, with utterly mouth-watering acidity and velvety, almost-resolved tannins. Huge complexity, combining red and black fruits, soft citrus, garrigue herbs and curry spices. Glorious stuff, to enjoy now or over the next 5 or more years. **+

La Migoua 1993
This is dense and spicy, yet beautifully soft, winey and totally sexy! There's even a hint of florality to it. Spicy and soft, yet with real complexity, combining fruit, savoury, spice and earth. Another gorgeous wine. **+

La Tourtine 1990
Oh dear - all I get (to begin with, at least) is alcohol, almost like a watered-down spirit concoction. There's a touch of cassis (not exactly a classic Bandol trait), but not really a lot else on the nose. The label states 13% abv, but the flavours are quite hot and frankly lacking interest. Is it faulty, past it or (heaven forfend) badly made? Whatever, it is drinkable, but that's about the best I can say.

La Migoua 1990
The aromas and flavours are somewhat different to La Tourtine - softer, with somewhat more in the way of fruit, but still quite alcoholic. Definitely a better wine (or bottle) but it seems quite a way past its peak and definitely needas drinking quickly. I have a theory that Bandol is a better bet in the "cooler" (relatively - there are few "bad" years in Bandol) years, whereas the hot year wines are rich and unctious when young, but don't age well. And these two wines do nothing to dispel that theory.

La Migoua 1989
This is much more like it. Much brighter and complex, with a lovely structure - gentle tannins and soft, juicy acidity, with a core of sweet fruit and spice. Still warming, but in a balanced, spicy, sensual way, with masses of fruit. A really lovely wine - great now and for a good few years yet. **+

La Migoua 1988
Waves of sweet, rich, seductive spiced fruitcake and winey aromas. Rich, warming and spicy in the mouth, but beutifully balanced and showing considerable elegance, not to mention a good deal of further ageing potential. For a 25 year-old wine, this really is only just coming into its own. A cracking wine. **++

Two of my favourites, the remains of which I enjoyed at home, later that evening
La Louffe 1987
This cuvée is mostly Mourvedre from La Migoua vineyard and is no longer made, since all the fruit now goes into the Migoua cuvée. Winey, with nice, light citrus and raspberry aromas and flavours, with soft spicy nuances...... and unfortuntaely perhaps just a tiny hint of TCA. Not enough to completely spoil the wine. Indeed, several people (myself included) opined that they would still drink it. I suspect that a "clean" bottle would have been completely delicious. *

La Cabassaou 2002
Brett (just a touch), emulsion paint and raspberry compote. Still fairly primary, but a nice wine to drink now, with a good balance of fruit, tannin and acidity. Quite a lot of  new oak, quite minty and high-toned. Quite new-world in style. A nice enough wine, but not typical of Bandol. *+ 

La Cabassaou 2001
Unlike La Tourtine, this displays too many of the less attractive traits of hot years like 2001. Quite hot, on both nose and palate, and whilst it shows reasonable acidity and some decent raisin and cassis fruit, I feel the tannin and alcohol will eventually outlive the fruit. That said, it has some complexity and is very good to drink now (if you like wines with hot characteristics) but if I had some, I'd be drinking it fairly soon. *

La Cabassaou 1999
This is lovely. A complex array of fresh and preserved red and black fruit aromas. A touch of rich "portiness" is offset beautifully by the rich, vibrant fruit flavours and citrus-tinged acidity. Herby, gently spicy, with some cool, almost minty nuances. Juicy, but winey, and just lovely. The best wine so far. **++

La Cabassaou 1996
What's not to like about this? In terms of style and evolution, it is very similar to the 1999 - perhaps a touch drier and more tannic, but showing all of the meaty, earthy qualities one looks for in great Bandol, with plenty of iodine and mineral character and bags of succulent fruit. This is a bit of a sleeper and has many years of life left in it. Superb wine. **+++

La Cabassaou 1995
A soft, seductive and amazingly complex nose of spiced forest fruits, raspberry, bramble, old leather and some intriguing hints of emulsion paint, sherbert and iodine. Wonderfully balanced, almost soft and velvety, gently bloody/meatyy, with almost resolved tannins, cracking acidity and loads of fruit. It's a close call between this and the previous couple of wines, but this one just edges it, if only because it is absolutely at its peak. Yum!  ***

La Cabassaou 1991
Funky and vegetal - this is plumbing the depths. Frankly, it is a bit past it. Certainly not undrinkable, although I probably wouldn't drink it by choice!

La Cabassaou 1989
Once again, this appears to show far too many hot year traits. Smells and tastes hot and alcoholic, with the fruit fading. A wine for brandy lovers.

A couple of slightly duff wines at the end couldn't spoil what was an extremely pleasurable and educational tasting. So what did I/we learn? Well, the main conclusions I drew from it were;
  • When made well, Bandol is up there with the world's great wine styles
  • When grown in locations such as this, within sight of (or at least within a few kilomtres of) the sea, Mourvedre is one of the world's great grapes
  • Domaine Tempier is (historically at least) up there with the very best estates in the appellation - possibly even in the top 1
  • As mentioned in my write-up of that previous tasting, it remains to be seen whether or not the change of winemaker can sustain Tempier's position at the very top.
  • Wines from normal or cooler vintages are much better prospects for medium/lng-term evolution and represent the true Bandol style and grace. Wines from hotter vintages are better drunk in the short/medium term, before the alcohol overwhelms the fruit.
For more about Domaine Tempier - http://www.domainetempier.com/en/index.php

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