Domaine Tempier Bandol Cabassaou 2002
A few weeks ago I published a slew of tasting notes on the 1997 vintage, now at twenty years of age. I started the week with a last look (because I certainly don’t have any more bottles left, more’s the pity) at the 1997 Pouilly-Fumé Pur Sang from Didier Dagueneau, before following up with a 1997 Loire tasting looking mainly at sweet wines from the Coteaux du Layon, its cru appellations and Vouvray. After that there came my pick-and-mix 1997 selection, featuring a diverse selection of wines from the likes of Thierry Allemand, Château de Beaucastel, Fritz Haag, Trimbach, Chateau Musar, Château Rieussec and more. This week, as the memory of those wines continues to fade, it is time I think to take a look at the 2002 vintage, now fifteen years on.
Things really kick off tomorrow, with an examination of the 2002 vintage in the Loire Valley, with a diverse array of wines from every corner of the region. Vouvray does dominate a little, as this was an exceptional vintage for this appellation, in every style, but there are more than a handful of wines from elsewhere along the river, including Muscadet from Famille Lieubeau, Anjou from Jo Pithon, Savennières from Domaine des Baumard, Coteaux du Loir from Domaine de Bellivière and Sancerre from Henri Bourgeois. Then on Wednesday I have a brief 2002 Bordeaux tasting report lined up, featuring a dozen wines pulled up from my cellar, including the likes of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Domaine de Chevalier and Vieux Château Certan. Finally, on Thursday, another dozen wines from other parts of the wine world (yes, they do exist!), including Bandol.
Bandol is one of several wine styles and wine regions (others include Tuscany, Madeira, Jerez and its sherry, the Douro and its port, Limoux for its Chenin Blanc as well as its Mauzac, among others) that continue to pique my interest in spite of my otherwise overwhelming obsessions with the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. Nevertheless, it is now a long time since I last visited the region, just shy of ten years in fact. I had visited only three years before that, and on both occasions I made sure to call in on Domaine Tempier, which always seemed to me to be the pre-eminent estate in the appellation. I can’t quite recall when and where the 2002 Cabassaou came into my possession; perhaps I bought it during one of those visits?
The Cabassaou vineyard is just about visible from the back of Domaine Tempier, on a distant slope, below the vines of La Tourtine, the source of another of their single-vineyard cuvées. This slightly sheltered position protects the vines from the full force of the Mistral, which I suspect explains, in part at least, the superior character of the vines from this site. The soils are clay and limestone, the vines mostly Mourvèdre, accounting for 95% of the parcel, with 4% Syrah and a dash of Cinsaut accounting for the remaining 1%. The vines are about 50 years old and the yields are very low, 25 hl/ha being typical. The vinification, meanwhile, is fairly standard, temperature controlled steel or cement vats to start, then 18 to 20 months in oak barrel. The result, however, can be very special.
I was in two minds whether or not to pull the cork on the 2002 Domaine Tempier Bandol Cabassaou right now, as Bandol can be close to immortal and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who said fifteen years was too young, especially for a cuvée such as this. I am glad I did though, as the quality is exceptional. In the glass it displays a very polished and glossy hue, and it is richly pigmented, as we should expect from Bandol at just fifteen years of age. It immediately draws me in with its richly expressive and smoky nose, full of black cherry and damson fruit, warm and enticing, along with notes of black bean and bacon, with a fresh, high-toned lift to it all. It has a fine interplay of both gamey-savoury notes and sweetly rich fruit. The palate is beautifully textured, this polished weight set against a bed of fine acidity, and atop this the fruits feel so wonderfully fresh, all dark-roasted damson and cherry, with a little tart cranberry vivacity. It is seamless in its composition, seductive and creamed, and it still carries a frame of ripe tannins. The finish is firm and peppery, and long. Overall this is brilliant, confident, polished, substantial and yet harmonious. I’m not sorry I opened this, because it gives real joy now, but there is certainly another decade or two ahead for this superb wine yet. If, unlike me, you can resist the temptation to wield the corkscrew. 18.5/20 • 97/100
Of course, Cabassaou is just one of a trio of special cuvées from Domaine Tempier, the others being Migoua and the aforementioned La Tourtine. I will publish my notes on these other wines, also in the 2002 vintage, in my 2002 Fifteen Years On tasting, this Thursday. (13/11/17)