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A Prince Among Rosés: Tempier Bandol

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When you taste wine, its initial impact is visual. The color and transparency or opacity of the wine is the first in a series of four "tasting" moments: Visual, olfactive, tactile/gustatory, temporal/mnemonic. In other words, the impressions that the wine makes on your eyes, nose, mouth and memory. These phases of tasting are often also called color, nose, mouth and finish (where the finish denotes the wine's aftertaste and persistence in the mouth).

If ever there were a wine that rewarded the eyes as fully as it did the nose and mouth, it would be Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé from Provence.

From its woodcut label, reminiscent of a sixteenth-century frontispiece, to its delicate salmon hue, the Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé delivers old-world elegance in a way that few European wines can. It literally bleeds authenticity from the moment you run your fingers across the lightly beveled label to the instant it touches your lips. And its earth and fruit transport you to a small village in southern France, a stone's throw from the Mediterranean sea.

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé isn't cheap, weighing in at around $45 retail in our market. And that price is driven in part by the fact that the U.S. receives only a small allocation of this highly sought-after wine.

But it's worth every penny: It's a benchmark and iconic wine that serves as a Platonic ideal of what great rosé wine can be, the embodiment of power, lightness and balance that marks the great wines of the world.

Made from dry-farmed Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignane and Cinsault grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides and vinified using native, naturally occurring yeasts, the Tempier rosé is considered by many the best in its category, and it's one of the wines that set the standard for all others.

We can't afford to drink it every day. But every year, my wife and I buy one bottle for a summer meal -- a sine qua non in our yearly vinous cycle.

A good friend recently brought over a bottle of the 2011, our first taste of the current vintage. The wine is still very "tight," meaning that its tannin still dominates its fruit. But 20 or so minutes of aeration brought it into balance and focus.

It's a favorite wine to pair with my salade niçoise, but it also paired brilliantly with the whole-wheat spaghetti with broccoli and Parmigiano Reggiano that Tracie P had prepared for dinner that night.

If its price is prohibitive, have two friends chip in $15 a head and you will each be rewarded with two glasses. Don't over-chill it, and give it some time in the glass, taking time to enjoy it to its fullest.

Your vie en rosé (your life in rosé) will never be the same.


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