The Bandol vineyards lie between Marseille and Toulon on the terraced slopes of a natural amphitheatre that runs down to the shores of the Mediterranean.
Historians date the area’s first vines to around 600 BC with the arrival of the Phoceans. Within a few centuries, the Romans were exporting local wines by ship from Bandol harbour, which went on to give the vineyards their name. The centuries-old reputation of this fine wine was cemented on 11 November 1941 when it was granted AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status.
Located in the heart of the Bandol terroir, Domaine Tempier was already in existence during the reign of Louis XV (1715-74). The house was built in 1834 and the estate gained recognition in 1885 when it won its first gold medal. The architect of this rebirth in the wake of the phylloxera epidemic that had devastated France’s vineyards was Léonie Tempier, who replanted the vines on rootstocks and, in 1880, had a barrel cellar and cement fermentation tanks built. The 1929 crisis hit wine production so hard that many of the vines were replaced by peach and apple trees. In 1936, Lucie Tempier, whose father ran a leather and hide business in Marseille, married Lucien Peyraud. Born into a family of gunsmiths and silk merchants, this young man from St-Etienne, near Lyon, dreamed of becoming a winegrower.
After Lucien’s agricultural studies in Aix and several work placements in the region, and in the wake of the Phoney War, the newly-weds moved into Domaine Tempier in 1940. This marked the beginning of the great Bandol epic launched by Mr Perrone, chairman of the Syndicat des Vins de Bandol – a winegrowers’ syndicate for the improvement and promotion of Bandol wine – and Dr André Roethlisberger, a local wine estate proprietor and the organisation’s co-founder. Lucien joined the syndicate’s board of directors and became a member of the tasting and quality control committee. Times were hard: they lived and worked by candlelight and pumped water from a well (the region did not have running water), and Lucien travelled to meetings in Toulon by bicycle. They began replanting the estate with noble varieties (Mourvedre, Cinsault and Grenache) in earnest and, on 27 October 1943, bottled their first rosé wine. In 1945, Lucien Peyraud was elected chairman of the Bandol winegrowers’ syndicate, and in 1947 he became a member of the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine), the French AOC regulatory body. Lucien's very active involvement in community and association life (he was also chair of the MSA – the Agricultural Social Mutual Fund – and a member of the Rotary Club) brought its own share of problems, so Lucie and Lucien were delighted when they could start relying on the support of their two sons, Jean-Marie and François, from 1960 onwards.
The Bandol winegrowers’ association continued its campaigning. For 37 years, Lucien fought to raise Bandol’s standing and have it ranked as one of France’s finest vins de garde, on a par with Bordeaux, Burgundy, Côte-Rotie, Crozes Hermitage and Châteauneuf du Pape, by basing it on the dominant Mourvedre grape. This highly-persuasive crusader became Bandol’s spiritual father – and is still recognised as such today by the region’s winegrowers. Lucien was also the standard bearer for all French Mediterranean wines. It cost him tremendous effort and it is hard for us to imagine the sacrifices he made, but they were counterbalanced by the times of joy and laughter he shared with Dr Roethlisberger, Baron Le Roy and Countess Portalis of Château Pradeaux.
Thanks to the belief of these pioneers in the Bandol dream, Domaine Tempier is the proud beneficiary of a fantastic heritage. Jean-Marie and François took up the gauntlet by promoting one of the estate’s unique features: its cuvées de terroir (single vineyard wines).
Having discerned obvious differences between the wines from their La Tourtine, La Migoua and, later, Cabassaou vineyards, they were eager to share their observations with Domaine Tempier connoisseurs by bottling these wines separately. The vineyards are carefully and properly maintained without chemical fertilisers or herbicides, and using only selective treatments and selected rootstocks and so on. At the same time, the cellar boasts high-performance equipment which enables the Domaine to move with the times. Embracing the future but with one foot firmly in the past, Jean-Marie and François make a point of perpetuating the estate’s expertise in producing exceptional wines with great aging potential. (The 1964 and 1971 vintages were still excellent in 2001.)
François and Jean-Marie retired in 2000, but set up a company with their sisters Fleurine, Marion, Laurence and Véronique, who are all very attached to the Domaine. Together, the siblings play an active role in the future of their heritage alongside the estate’s manager, Daniel Ravier.