November 20, 2020
By Bruce Neyers
Lulu Peyraud c. 1975 returning from the fish monger with the makings of her famous Bouillabaisse. Godspeed, Lulu. Thanks for leaving us with a better world.
The 2018 Bandol from Domaine Tempier just arrived, and since it was a small crop year, my customary allocation was trimmed back to only five cases. Wine buffs the world over are already beginning to talk about the wine, using words like ‘legendary’ and ‘fabled’. More importantly though, the wine world is lamenting the recent death of the grand matriarch of Domaine Tempier, Lulu Peyraud, who we lost in October, at age 102. She left behind a trail of broken hearts.
I could talk about Lulu for a while and not cover all of the great times, great wines, and great meals I enjoyed with her over the past 45 years. We celebrated with her from California to Venice. She devoted her life to making the wine world a better place, and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Having had her as a part of our lives is a highlight for both of us, and we’ll never visit the south of France and not think of her. Her most important contribution to me though, was to pass along a love for wine made from Mourvèdre, and for the great food that accompanied her wine. I’ll be eternally grateful to Alice Waters and Kermit Lynch for introducing us.
Whether coincidence or fate, the Neyers 2018 Mourvèdre ‘Evangelho Vineyard’ is the most successful version of this wine we’ve produced. We bottled 164 cases – our largest crop ever. Visitors regularly ask me what my favorite wine is, and I’m reluctant to answer. It’s like asking me which of my children is my favorite. It changes. Still, when I look at the empty bottles in my recycle bin at the end of the week, Mourvèdre regularly seems to win.
The flavor of Mourvèdre is bright and fresh, like a beautiful mid-spring day. The wine is soft and approachable early on, yet I’ve drunk bottles that were 30 years old and still showed stirrings of youth. The flavors are complex but seem to vary as much as the weather, and always at the heart of the wine is that combination of exotic ripe fruit, with subtleties that entertain like a sophisticated magic act.
The Mourvèdre we make at Neyers is the essence of California. The aroma is of plum and cherry, with soft, almost chewy flavors highlighted by a fascinating minerality. Tadeo has captured the nuance of the grape, the multi-faceted aspect that makes a second swallow irresistible after the first.
The flavors combine powerful fruit with earthy undertones that add to the complexity. The attractive finish includes a unique, wild flavor that my friend Daniel Ravier – winemaker at Tempier for the past 20 years – calls ‘rustic’. It tastes best when drunk with a slight chill.
Leg of lamb grilling in the wood fireplace at Tempier
Alain Pascal grills fresh mussels over wood at Bandol Gros Noré