Marc Tempe, who previously worked for the INAO, established this small domain (he currently owns just under eight hectares of vines) in the early '90s by combining holdings from his and his wife families. He sold fruit to the local co-op in '93 and '94, then went into debt to buy a press and foudres so that he could make wine himself beginning in 1995. Since '96, he has adopted biodynamie in an attempt to emphasize the minerality and acidity of his wines. "My aim is to have living soil that can truly express itself," he explained. "When the roots can get minerals from the soil, we get maximum force in the wines, real spine, although of course we look for feeble vigor and low yields." Tempe presses whole grapes gently and slowly, "as in Champagne," then does a light debourbage lasting 24 to 36 hours. Fermentation takes place without any addition of sugar or yeasts, after which the wines go into mostly large foudres for a minimum of 12 months. (Tempe also uses some barriques "to give the wines more oxygenation" and is experimenting with new barrels "to get some tannins.") Tempe's more serious cuvees age on their lees without racking or sulfiting for 18 to 24 months. I tasted a number of '99s that had not yet been bottled at the beginning of May; those dry '99s already finished were mostly bottled without filtration. A few of his 2000s were still too cloudy to assess with confidence. Wines are noted in the order in which they were presented to me: we tasted in two distinctly rudimentary cellars, then finished by sampling a number of wines in bottle, including a rather rustic set of 1998 gewurztraminer SGNs that had been bottled 15 days prior to my visit. (Patrick Lesec Selections, imported by Michel-Schlumberger Wines, Ltd., Healdsburg, CA)
Leesy, ripe, peach-dominated aroma. Dry and vibrant, with firm, spicy grip and underlying minerality. Still holding a lot of gas.
(tasted from foudre Deep, ripe, peachy nose. Sweet and fresh, with clean, intense peach flavor and excellent thrust. Finishes with lovely length. This is not quite finished with its sugar fermentation. Seemed markedly deeper and fresher than the '99 version.
Flower blossom and spiced apple on the nose. Juicy and ripe, with noteworthy fat and depth. Finishes with lovely sweetness and good grip. Still a bit of sugar to be fermented.
Apple blossom, curry powder and stone on the nose. Quite dry and precise; firmly minerally but not hard. Bracing, subtly persistent aftertaste.
Spicy aromas of apple and pineapple. Spicy and moderately sweet (15 g/l r.s.), but in a somewhat oxidative phase today. Not unctuous but has plenty of size.
Aroma of smoked, spicy luncheon meats. Broad and dry; more spice than fruit showing today. Good honest, rather uncompromising gewurztraminer with lowish acidity.
Apples and spices on the somewhat oxidative nose. Big, rich and powerful yet smooth. A broad-shouldered wine that somehow manages to carry its major alcohol without being knocked askew. Finishes with very good length.
Ripe apple, apricot, rose petal and baking spices on the nose. Rich and moderately sweet, but kept firm by sound acidity. There very good fruit and grip here, along with late hints of walnut and licorice.
Tangy aromas of pineapple, apple and spices. Superrich and sweet, with complex, captivating flavors of spring flowers, pineapple and spice. Compelling fruity acidity frames and carries the flavors through a very long finish. Here the balance of 14.5% alcohol and 40 g/l r.s. works splendidly. Late note of smoked meat.
Char, pineapple and oregano on the nose; I thought I was smelling a Hawaiian pizza. Dry and fairly intensely flavored, with good fruit and some power. Rather low acidity.
White flowers, lemon and a whiff of banana on the nose. Firm, brisk and dry in the mouth, with penetrating flavors of lemon and white grapefruit. With aeration, this showed more gras and a hint of sugar.
Viognier-like spice and citrus peel aromas. Dry and uncompromising, with very firm flavors of citrus skin, pineapple and minerals. Is this a little too austere for its own good?
Oily, exotic nose of passion fruit and soft citrus fruits, with substantial oak spice. Juicy, dry and intensely flavored, with enough minerality to balance the oak spices. Finishes fairly dry and persistent.
(from barrique Big, smoky aromas of lichee, pineapple, meat and oak spice. Penetrating and quite dry, with pineapple, licorice and oak spice flavors shaped by lively acidity (the acids were much lower in '99, noted Tempe). Still holding a lot of gas. Finishes with sneaky length.
Sour apple and pear on the nose. Very sweet and penetrating; powerful, firm and very long. But still rather unformed and quite difficult to assess.
(tasted from a new barrique Pineapple, pear blossom, white flowers and spices on the nose. Very sweet and rich, with lovely pear syrup and spice flavors. Densely packed and not especially oaky ("new oak sometimes dries the wine less than one- or two-year-old barrels," notes Tempe). Showing well today.
(from barrique Lemon, orange and spicy oak on the nose. Not dense but pure and spicy, and already quite aromatic in the mouth thanks to sound acidity. From fruit that Tempe harvested early for fear of getting acid rot. Finishes with good length.
(from barrique Pure aromas of flowers, apple and spice. Very sweet, spicy flavors of apple, pear and peach. Dense, rich and concentrated; powerful and fresh. Finishes with a suggestion of tannins.
Rather closed on the nose today. Fresh flavors dominated by spices and stones. Subtle and light on its feet, with an almost mentholated coolness. A finer, more laid-back style of pinot gris that will require some bottle aging.
White peach and oak spice aromas. Medium-sweet, rich and youthfully unevolved, with strong oak spices today. Possesses very good fruit, but finishes with distinct wood tannins.
Apple and resin on the nose. Leanish, dry and slightly tart-edged, with uncompromising mineral and earth notes; very granitic. Already nicely perfumed in the mouth. This will go petrolly with another couple of years in the bottle.
High-pitched aromas of ginger, white flowers and resin. Juicy and aromatic in the mouth, with good brisk acidity, a note of lime and moderate flesh and concentration. Finish somewhat compromised by a suggestion of old wood.
Perfumed aroma of apple blossom. Nicely vibrant for a '99 pinot blanc, with penetrating, complex flavors of pear, lime, flowers and herbs. A smaller-scaled wine with moderate acidity, but the balance works. And distinctly suppler than Tempe '99 Sylvaner, which came across as quite malic and tart.
Subdued aromas of white peach, soft citrus fruits and spices. Juicy and on the lean side, with lively flavors of grapefruit and lemon. A wine of modest depth, but showing personality today.
Pear and peach syrup on the nose. Fat and slightly sweet but with bright limey acidity giving the silky texture good definition. Finishes with a bracing lemon flavor. This should last nicely in bottle.