I used to drink Domaine Tempier Bandol all the time. There was a shop in Oxford that sold La Migoua and La Tourtine 1990 for a tenner a bottle – how could I refuse? The aim was always to age it, but most bottles only stayed unpopped for a few days. I did manage to keep a bottle of La Cabassaou 1990 (purchased for a lofty fifteen notes); that got necked with amazing pleasure about five years ago. Quite, quite magic.
Then, of course, the world began to notice and I became an unemployed lunatic so it crept beyond all but special treat purchase prices. Furthermore, Tempier got a new winemaker for the 2001 harvest, who picked later, and all the ancient, Brett infested vats were replaced by brand spanking new, clean ones. I tasted the 2000s and 2001s at the Domaine in the early noughties and felt there was an amazing change of character. The wines seemed to have gone from tannic, but refined, scented beauties to massive, alcohol-charged jam bombs. I have had some good post-2001 Tempier wines, but the best have always seemed to come from the cooler vintages. This 1999 La Migoua was part of my tiny remaining stock of pre-2001 Tempier – I doubt I will encounter their like again.
Now this is class! After sixteen years I am slightly surprised by the abundance of fruit on the nose; there are loads of ripe, reasonably fresh black currants and red currants, a hint of ripe blackberry as well. Yum yum! It is also really herbal, with rosemary, thyme and a suggestion of star anise.
There is certainly Brett on the nose, but fortunately it manifests itself as a rich, involute earthiness rather than a more objectionable horseshit character. This earthiness works very well with the fruit and herbal characteristics to create a sweetly scented, extremely complex and surprisingly fresh seemless experience of total delight. It is just really lovely; what is there not to love here?
If it smells like charmingly sophisticated, properly fine wine, it tastes like an orgiastic explosion of all you want from a really grown-up wine experience. It thrills and titilliates your senses with a perfectly integrated array of flavours and textures that demand your full attention whilst you revel in its intricacies.
The structure has softened over sixteen years but not by a phenomenal degree. The tannins are very present, but not hard or chalky – more reassuringly commanding. They are supported by a most sapid acidity, so even though this is confidently powerful you drool in anticipation of your next mouthful.
It is really fruity too, more of those currants and blackberries. The highish alcohol level makes this fruit taste deliciously sweet, but there is no hot burn to it. There is earthiness interwoven with the fruit and the commanding structure – again the impression is of a seemless, unified entity rather than having anything sticking out awkwardly.
There is a gentle maturity to it, indeed I would say this is capable of maturing and improving for many years to come, not a capability displayed by many modern wines! This is a total delight and extremely fine. Bravo!
Now, this wine is extremely fine, also highly impressive, but we drank it whilst we were noshing through platefuls of these:
They are slices from a 1.3kg piece of Sirloin steak that we grilled in one piece, that came from a steer lucky enough to have lived its life on the chalk meadows of Beechcroft Farm – five minutes down the road from us. This was one of the best pieces of meat ever to enter my mouth, expertly grilled by The Editor.
The wine was an excellent match for the beef, but the focus was diverted from the wine quite markedly. Yes, my little taste before the pleasures of flesh was stunning, and finishing up my glass after dinner was most satisfying, but whilst we relished a hunk of animal that had given everything to satisfy our lusts, even wine as extremely fine as La Migoua 1999 did not seem such a big deal. The vines may have struggled to produce excellent fruit, the winemaker may have tried his hardest, but they did not die to fill our bellies and illuminate what had otherwise been, pre-dinner wine taste excepted, what had been quite a difficult day. Fine wine is very fine, and all that, but one’s priorities have to be correctly ordered!