Greetings from Le Petit Jardin — how Bandol became the most serious wine of Provence

Apr 6, 2020 | 1 comment

By Giovanni Cambizaca

We are all doing well out here in San Miguel, and I hope the same is true for you and that you are managing to put a life together under our new circumstances.

Since we are all at home and have a lot more time on our hands than we ever expected,

Every week I write an email to the customers of Le Petit Jardin, talking about something from the world of food and drink that I hope they will find interesting. Even though my restaurant is currently closed, I have decided to continue writing these weekly messages, because if I can’t feed my customers I can at least keep them entertained. Now, you can read my thoughts here on Cuenca Highlife, but if you’d like to sign up to receive the emails, you can click here to subscribe.

Before the current unpleasantness, I wrote about the expanding role taken by women in the world of food and wine, and today I want to follow that up by discussing the long life and work of one of the most famous women in French viticulture and gastronomy. Lulu Peyraud was born as Lucie Tempier into a family of Marseille merchants in December 1917. The First World War had almost a year to run, and the Spanish Flu had yet to emerge upon an unsuspecting world. In 1940, Lulu and her husband Lucien Peyraud took charge of Domaine Tempier, a family farming and wine estate in Provence. Their aim was to develop the estate and the Bandol wine produced there, with the ambition of making it one of the great wines of France.

Bandol is a small port with a resort atmosphere, and when Lulu moved there the area was producing little wine of interest. At the time Bandol wine was almost all pink, and today Domaine Tempier rosé is often considered the archetypal pink wine of Provence. But the best Bandol is and always has been red, made partly from Mourvèdre grapes, now required to be a minimum of 50 percent, though most producers use significantly more, with Grenache and Cinsaut usually filling out the rest. You might recall that I discussed the Mourvèdre grape last year saying, “Mourvèdre is a full-bodied, rustic wine with medium acidity and high tannins. The smell of Mourvèdre is an explosion of dark fruit, violet, and herbaceous aromas of black pepper and thyme.”

Mainly through the efforts of Lucien and Lulu, with the later help of their children, Bandol became the most serious wine of Provence. You might argue on a geographical basis that Châteauneuf-du-Pape should have that honor, but that’s normally grouped with the wines of the Southern Rhône.

Besides her contributions to Bandol wine, Lulu gained fame as one of the finest of all Provençal cooks. Starting in the 1970s, Alice Waters, of the restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, began to visit and her cooking was heavily influenced by her experiences at Lulu’s table. One of the best Provençal cookbooks, a dialogue between two cooks, is Lulu and Richard Olney’s ‘Lulu’s Provençal Table’. Her cooking is based firmly on the domestic Provençal tradition. Homemade pasta, rice with saffron, aioli, along with plenty of tomatoes, anchovies, and olive oil. Meats, especially lamb, and fish were often simply grilled or roasted in the fireplace. And she served lots of vegetables — green beans, stuffed zucchini, eggplant, always salads. Her stuffed vegetables contain no meat, just cooked onions, garlic pounded with salt and pepper and anchovies, bread crumbs, egg, and parsley. For dessert, there were tarts of sour cherries, apricots, apples in winter.

Still with us at the age of 102, Lulu Peyraud is a testament to the invigorating properties of good food and copious amounts of red wine (just look at the size of that bottle). Her cooking is of the simple kind that we might be seeing a lot more of in our futures and is something that even the most reluctant cook can achieve at home. Here’s a recipe from Lulu for roast chicken with ginger that I intend to make tonight. I have all the ingredients except fresh basil, so I think I will substitute rosemary.

Roast chicken with ginger, macaroni with roasting juices
Serves 4
1.5 kg roasting chicken
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
125 ml white wine, at a simmer
350 g elbow macaroni
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
450 g tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped, salted, and spread in a colander for 1 hour
a handful of freshly torn-up basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 230 C.
Season the chicken’s body cavity with salt and pepper, smear the inside with grated ginger, and truss (or not). Smear the outside with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place the chicken on its side in an oval oven dish. Put it in the oven, turn to the other side when the first is lightly colored, then turn onto its back. After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 180 C, remove excess fat, and baste with lemon juice; when there is no more, pour some boiling white wine into the dish and continue basting. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the juice runs clear.

Boil the macaroni in abundant salted water according to the package instructions. Add the garlic to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy frying pan over high heat. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, add the tomatoes. Shake the pan constantly, tossing the tomatoes repeatedly for a minute or so, until they are nearly dry and give off a caramelized scent. Add the basil, toss again, and remove from the heat. Drain the macaroni, empty it into a wide, deep, heated serving dish, add the tomatoes and the chicken’s roasting juices, and toss well.

Carve the chicken at the table and serve, accompanied by the macaroni.

We are thinking of you in this troubling time, and I am hopeful that we will emerge from this with a better sense of what is truly important in life, and with a greater willingness to see ourselves as part of a larger community, rather than simply as individuals tossed by fate.

Te enviamos un fuerte abrazo
Giovanni, Maria Eliza, and all the Le Petit family
Credit: Le Petit Jardin
San Miguel de Putushi, Cuenca, Ecuador

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