I’m a fairly adventurous wine drinker, and I certainly don’t shy away from naturally made wines with more than their share of rusticity. But the wines of Marc Tempé, tasted last week with my irregular wine group, leave me puzzled.
Tempé is a biodynamic wine producer from the Alsace region of France. He makes wines about as naturally as you can, with no added yeast, acid, or sugar, and he uses minimal sulfur dioxide. Not to mention the yeast foods, enzymes, and other things you find in many cellars these days that I’m guessing aren’t part of Tempé’s “program.” Instead, he relies on carbon dioxide to keep the wines fresh, and long aging on the protective lees.
Nevertheless, these are downright weird wines. Even if you tolerate less than squeaky clean wines, you’ll be challenged with these. After this tasting, I am still interested in learning more about this producer. But I’m not buying any of these for my table or cellar. They’re more a curiosity to me than pleasurable, intriguing but ultimately not something I’m going to serve.
We started with the 2001 Riesling Zellenberg, a wooly, earthy wine that first had me thinking it was Chenin blanc. Then came the telltale petrol aroma of Riesling, beautiful if not complex. The flavor was soft, earthy with a hint of sweetness but lacking intensity, a good enough wine and my favorite for its aroma. Still not compelling.
Then came the 2001 Pinot Blanc Zellenberg, fizzy upon pouring and positively reeking of cider and sherry. Prickly on the palate, apricots and walnuts, it actually seemed a little better with time but clearly something’s wrong here.
Next was the 2001 Pinot Blanc Priegel, overripe and marked by ethyl acetate aromas, later more typical yellow fruit. Tangy on the palate, clean apple and lemon flavors but bland.
Then the 2002 Gewurztraminer Rodelsberg, a darker gold color than the others with some fizz, leesy aromas with apricots, roses, and wild dill and brown sugar notes. Apricots on the palate with earthy, lightly sweet flavors, tangy acid and a silky texture, a showy Gewurz that sounds nicer than it was. More a glimpse into what this producer is rumored to be able to achieve, even if this was a little over the top.
Finally, the 2002 Pinot Blanc Zellenberg, not fizzy like the ’01 but more Oregon Pinot gris like with bland yellow fruit, mineral, and yeast aromas. Fresh on the palate, easiest to drink of the bunch but utterly bland in the mouth, lightly sweet and inoffensive but not better than good.
In sum, Marc Tempé is clearly up to something. But maybe his produce simply doesn’t travel well. I’d love to see what these wines are like in his cellar, but I’ll leave it to my favorite blog wineterroirs to check into that sometime.