A Provençal Table

by M. L. Longworth

I first became interested in Bandol wines when we were still living in California, pre-1997, after having bought a cookbook that was in the sale bin at Bookshop Santa Cruz:  ‘A Provençal Table’ by the venerated food writer Richard Olney. Olney lived in the countryside near Bandol and became good friends with Lulu and Lucien Peyraud, owners of Domaine Tempier wines, and the book is a story, with recipes, of their friendship (Lucien spearheaded the move for Bandol wines to gain French AOC status, way back in 1941, and his wife Lulu was a famously great home-cook). The recipes are elaborate, but I love the book for its stories, and Lulu’s frankness.

Lulu and Lucien were given Domaine Tempier as a wedding present in 1936.

It’s mid-September and the school year has begun at NYU in Paris–to great to see the smiling faces of first year students–and I came back south on Wednesday afternoon, energized by teaching again, to be greeted by the grape harvest! Tractors pulling wagons–laden with red grapes–slowly made their way along the narrow country lanes and I slowly followed, respectfully keeping a distance and not passing, the whole time whispering, ‘Thank you! Thank you!’

I ran inside and got my camera; there are vines across the street from our house.

In celebration of a house full of guests, we bought a bottle of 2011 Domaine Tempier for tonight’s dinner; far more expensive than the wines we usually buy…

Here’s a great article from the Guardian on Olney’s legacy. It’s very informative and features some fun anecdotes, including this one: Once cases of unlabeled wines were found in a sunken ship off the coast of Toulon; no one knew how to identify them, and word got around that the person with the best palate to do so was a shy American living near Bandol (Olney). Olney died in 1999 and a friend now lives in his former house, keeping it just the way it was when the writer died. Enjoy the article, and your autumn, wherever you are!