Lulu Peyraud, the matriarch of a wine-producing family in the Bandol region of southern France, who epitomized a joyous, exuberant and generous Provençal way of life as a cook and a hostess, died Oct. 7 in La Ciotat, France. She was 102.
The death, in a hospital, was announced by the Peyraud family’s wine estate, Domaine Tempier.
Through her long life, Mrs. Peyraud was known for the sumptuous, extravagant meals she served to friends, family and visitors at Domaine Tempier, in the village of Le Plan du Castellet.
People might reasonably dispute which region of France offered the best cuisine, but few would argue that there was a better invitation than luncheon at Tempier.
“If I have ever been to a home that may suitably be called magic, it must be that of the Peyraud family in Bandol,” novelist and bon vivant Jim Harrison wrote in 2000.
Guests were greeted with cool glasses of Tempier rosé that were refilled frequently, served with various nibbles and bites. If the weather cooperated, they would be eating outside, the air suffused with the scent of garrigue, the blend of wild herbs, bushes and shrubs that perfumes Provence.
The large, inviting table would be bedecked with garlands of flowers, herbs and heads of garlic; vegetable centerpieces; pitchers of cloudy olive oil from the estate’s own groves; and plenty of glasses for the multitude of wines to come.
What would be on the menu? That all depended. What was the season and how was the weather? What was fresh that morning in the market? What had the fisherman brought in from the sea?
Perhaps one of Mrs. Peyraud’s children had gathered some wild asparagus in spring or wild mushrooms in autumn. If it were a celebration, a bouillabaisse might be in order, or perhaps spit-roasted lambs or a hare stew.
“Lulu never knows what she’s going to make until she’s been to the market,” chef Alice Waters, who called Mrs. Peyraud a mentor, wrote in 1994.
Long before seasonal cooking and farm-to-table became buzzwords, Mrs. Peyraud was living out the ideal in Provence. A petite woman who spoke in a girlish voice, she was lively and outgoing and flashed a cheeky, mischievous sense of humor.
She might have cooked for decades in obscurity were it not for the excellence of Domaine Tempier’s Bandol reds and rosés. The wines drew people in, including Richard Olney, an American artist living in France who went on to become a leading food and wine writer.
Olney, who first tasted Tempier in the 1950s, introduced Waters to the Peyrauds in the 1970s, not long after she had opened her groundbreaking restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, Calif.
In 1976 he also introduced the Peyrauds to Kermit Lynch, a wine importer, also from Berkeley, who was prospecting the back roads of France for traditional wines made without compromise or artifice.
Lynch fell in love with the Peyrauds and with the Tempier wines, which he has imported into the United States ever since. Both he and Olney bought homes in Provence, not far from Tempier.
Olney eventually wrote a cookbook with Mrs. Peyraud, “Lulu’s Provençal Table” (1994), which detailed life at Domaine Tempier, along with menus that one might see through the course of a year.
“Perhaps love and friendship can never be quite the same in the absence of the cicada’s chant, of fresh sweet garlic and voluptuous olive oil, of summer-ripe tomatoes and the dense, spicy, wild fruit of the wines of Domaine Tempier,” Olney wrote.
Lynch’s 1988 book, “Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France,” was among the first to extol the many virtues of the Peyraud family and the lives they were leading — all in service, of course, of the Tempier wines he was selling.
Lucie Renée Tempier was born Dec. 11, 1917, in Marseille to Alphonse and Eugénie (Roubaud) Tempier. Her father owned a leather importing company, and the family was relatively well off, with a summer villa in Sanary on the coast. The family also had a vineyard, Domaine Tempier, which made wine and sold it in bulk to merchants in Marseille.
In 1935, while on summer holiday, young Lucie met Lucien Peyraud, a viticulturalist, in Sanary, where his parents had rented a villa. They were married in 1936.
Lucien Peyraud worked in a variety of agriculture jobs and for his father-in-law’s leather firm until September 1939, when France declared war on Germany and he was called up for military service. After France’s swift defeat, Alphonse Tempier gave the young couple, who were now parents, Domaine Tempier, which was somewhat run-down and, like many farms, had no electricity, telephone or running water.
The Bandol region, a sort of amphitheater of hillside vineyards inland from the fishing port of Bandol, had once been recognized for its exceptional wines, but that ended in the mid-19th century. That was when phylloxera, a ravenous aphid that preyed on the roots of grapevines, arrived in Europe, destroying vineyards all over. Only after it was discovered that European vines could be grafted onto American rootstocks, which were immune to the aphid, could the vineyards be rebuilt.
Before phylloxera, the predominant red grape in the area was mourvèdre, which was late-ripening, low-yielding and difficult to farm. But the wines were recognized for their ability to age and improve. When it came time to replant the vineyards, many farmers chose instead higher-yielding, less labor-intensive varieties, resulting in innocuous wines.
Lucien Peyraud joined with a number of other vignerons in the area who were determined to reclaim Bandol’s reputation for top wines. By the end of 1941, the French wine authorities had officially recognized the Bandol appellation.
Tempier began to acquire other vineyards as well. In 1943, Domaine Tempier released its first wines, 5,000 bottles of rosé. Electricity came in 1946 and a telephone in 1947.
In 1974, Lucien Peyraud stepped back, turning the vineyards and winemaking over to two sons, Jean-Marie and François, who themselves largely retired in 2000. The Peyraud family still oversees Tempier, but since 2000 Daniel Ravier has managed the estate and made the wine.
Lucien Peyraud died in 1996. Lulu Peyraud is survived by her seven children, Jean-Marie, François, Fleurine, Colette, Marion, Laurence and Véronique; 14 grandchildren; 29 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandson.