Hostess extraordinaire Lucie "Lulu" Peyraud, matriarch of Bandol's Domaine Tempier and a cook whose Provençal cooking inspired great chefs, died Oct. 7 at age 102.
"Her contributions were so huge: Provençal lifestyle, cooking, welcoming feeling, etc. And, of course, joie de vivre," said Domaine Tempier's winemaker Daniel Ravier, in an email to Wine Spectator. "It is hard to describe what her influence was, but I hope the wines of Domaine Tempier reflect her."
Peyraud (née Tempier) was born Dec. 11, 1917. Her father was a leather importer based in Marseille, France. After she married Lucien Peyraud in 1936, her father gifted the newlyweds with Domaine Tempier, a farm just outside the scenic seaside town of Bandol. Domaine Tempier had been in the Tempier family since 1834 and included a cellar, farmhouse and vineyards, all developed through the efforts of Lulu's grandmother, Léonie Tempier.
Upon tasting a pre-phylloxera wine from Tempier's cellar, Lucien set out on a quest to establish Bandol as its own AOC, which was granted in 1941. Beginning in 1945, he became president of the AOC, a post he held for 37 years.
Meanwhile, the petite and charismatic Peyraud tirelessly sold Tempier wines restaurant-to-restaurant, gave birth to seven children and turned the domaine's farmhouse into a beacon of Provençal cuisine. Centered around the old brick hearth in the kitchen, the family-style feasts she cooked for visitors became legendary.
When it came to cooking, Peyraud was mostly self-taught. "When I married, the only thing I knew how to make was béchamel sauce," she told Wine Spectator in 2013. "You learn to invent by necessity."
Domaine Tempier's reputation traveled across the Atlantic, and in the 1970s, the food writer Richard Olney introduced the Peyrauds to California chef Alice Waters. Waters credits Domaine Tempier as the inspiration behind her landmark Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. On the wine side, Tempier became the flagship winery of American Kermit Lynch's then-budding import company. He continues to represent the winery today.
Olney went on to write the book Lulu's Provençal Table, published in 1994, which was derived from a series of interviews with Peyraud to record her recipes.
"My beloved mentor Lulu Peyraud, proprietress of Domaine Tempier, died this morning just before her 103rd birthday in December. I am heartbroken," said Waters on social media. To honor Peyraud, Waters made a wreath with olive branches and marble grapes and hung it on a fence outside of Chez Panisse. "Tonight we are drinking Bandol rosé with Lulu's friends until we fall over! She had boundless love: Everyone who met her felt that she was their best friend."
In the early 1960s, Peyraud's sons François and Jean-Marie shared management of Domaine Tempier after Lucien retired. Lucien died in 1996 and, soon after, both sons retired. The torch was passed to winemaker Daniel Ravier in 2000. Six of Peyraud's children currently sit on the board of directors for the domaine.
Peyraud credited her long life to 50 swings a day on the swing in the backyard as well as two beverages. "I only drink red wine and Champagne," she said in 2013. "It's the secret of health." Why Champagne? "Because it makes you laugh!"
Peyraud is survived by her seven children, 14 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.