VINE CUTTINGS October 2004

News and Notes from the World of Wine

Wine Enthusiast Magazine Announces
2004 Wine Star Award Nominees

Wine Enthusiast Editor and Publisher Adam Strum is pleased to announce this year’s nominees for our prestigious Wine Star Awards. For the fifth year, Wine Enthusiast’s editors have submitted their choices for the year’s hottest players, and we are sure you’ll agree that this is the most impressive list we’ve assembled yet. In 2004, we’ve also added a new honor, Restaurateur of the Year, to recognize an individual, or individuals, who offer dining experiences matched only by the quality of the accompanying wines. Winners will be announced in our December 15 issue.

Bordeauxing on the Obscene

Some say there’s nothing better than enjoying a glass of good Bordeaux with the one you love, but we say there’s nothing better than winning free stuff. Combine the two at; the grand prize winner of the "most seductive Bordeaux moment" gets a luxurious, week-long vacation for six in Bordeaux.

— Samara Gilman


Watching Wine Vino-flicks hit the big screen

The world of wine is ripe with enough soap opera-like scheming, plot peaks and drama to merit a movie. That’s the message delivered in Mondovino, a documentary by American filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter that’s scheduled for early 2005 release in the U.S.

"Because every aspect of society is reflected in the wine world—rich and poor, left and right, peasant and aristocrat—if you take the temperature of the wine world," explained Nossiter in an interview following the film’s debut at the 57th International Film Festival in Cannes, "you’re taking the temperature of the world at large."

Mondovino is a labor of love for Nossiter, a trained sommelier. The film, which laments what the director calls "a homogenizing of taste" and the globalization of wine, will be edited down for its American debut. Nossiter is using an extra 500 hours of material to create a 10-part wine miniseries on DVD, planned for a Christmas 2005 release.

Sideways, a film by Alexander Payne based on Rex Pickett’s novel, will be in theaters this month. Miles (Paul Giamatti) and his soon-to-be-wed friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) take a week-long vacation through Santa Barbara’s wine country that stars Miles’s favorite wine, Pinot Noir. During their trip, the two meet up with female wine enthusiasts and plenty of trouble, as Jack’s desire to celebrate his last week of freedom goes overboard. The interaction between the outgoing Jack and the more reserved Miles is hysterical, and the beautiful cinematography leaves you aching to get on a plane to California.

— Monica Larner and Mike Duffy

Emile Peynaud, Bordeaux Enologist,
Dies at age 92

Enologist Emile Peynaud, probably the most influential man in modern winemaking, died in July at age 92, after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was a quiet revolutionary who taught by example how wine could be made from ripe grapes, in clean cellars. He showed Bordeaux, and much of the rest of the wine world, that great wine can give pleasure even when young, and that they don’t need harsh tannins and high acidity.

His influence remains enormous. He turned Château Margaux into the powerhouse it is today. He created Tignanello and Solaia, worked with Concha y Toro in Chile, and consulted in California, Spain, Peru and Mexico.

But his greatest achievement, from the late 1970s onward, was to persuade Bordeaux producers to throw out their old barrels, clean their cellars, pick grapes when they’re ripe, and make the richer styles of wine that are standard today. Ironically, his teaching led to the proliferation of cult and garage wines that he disliked—too much tannin and not enough fruit, he said, arguing that balance and harmony were essential in wine.

Peynaud was also professor of enology at Bordeaux University, in a department that he created. He taught a generation of winemakers, and authored many books. The two most widely read are The Taste of Wine (1980) and Knowing and Making Wine (1982), which were translated widely and have been read both by professionals and by wine consumers.

Born in the southwestern French wine region of Madiran in 1912, Peynaud’s first job was in the cellar of Bordeaux négociant Calvet. He produced his enology thesis in 1946, and devoted himself to microbacterial research, following in the path laid down by Louis Pasteur in the 19th century. He showed how malolactic fermentation worked, at that time still barely understood in wine cellars.

In the 1970s, his list of Bordeaux clients was said to be in the hundreds. As the story went, if he merely slowed down his white Citroën in front of a particular chateau, people would think he was consulting for that winery and that chateau’s standing would rise.

— Roger Voss



News of Julia Child’s death came as this issue of Wine Enthusiast was being readied for publication. Child died August 13, a few days before her 92nd birthday. It’s sad to think that the indefatigable Julia has trilled her last "Bon appétit," but we can look back and marvel at a life well lived.

Even before she sautéed her way onto the American scene, Julia’s path was hardly typical: a job with U.S. intelligence during World War II, and later, postings throughout Europe as the wife of career diplomat Paul Child.

In Paris she became a serious cook and began work, with two Frenchwomen, on Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, 1961), the groundbreaking cookbook that made the exalted French table accessible to average Americans. Promoting the book on public television, she prepared an omelet, a gambit that proved so popular that the station asked her back for a regular series. The French Chef was a runaway hit that led to 40 years in television, cookbooks and food-related good works. Along the way, she touched the hearts—and stomachs—of millions.

"Telegenic" is a word that might have been coined just for Julia. She was not young, and she defied all notions of what a female television personality should look and sound like. Yet, Julia’s warmth and humor, her love of what she did and her conviction that with a little effort, we could do it, too, beamed over the airwaves as real and honest as a homemade pie. And her timing was perfect; she came along when the possibilities of television were still untapped, and the food industry was preaching ever-greater reliance on canned-soup "gravies" and powdered mixes. America was ready for Julia’s message, which, as she stated it in 1975 in From Julia Child’s Kitchen (Knopf), reads as if it had been written last week: "Be a fearless cook! Try out new ideas and new recipes, but always buy the freshest and finest of ingredients, whatever they may be."

She was arguably a force in this country’s wine renaissance, as well; she poured herself a glass at the end of countless shows and offered pairings even in her earliest cookbooks. It was all part of the delights of the table.

As she said in that 1975 cookbook, "Keep your knives ever sharp and—toujours bon appétit!" Toujours bon appétit to you, too, Julia. America’s table will be a little less merry without you.

— Karen Berman

What wine list?

First came the paperless office…now there’s a restaurant with a paperless wine list. Sure, there have been other, high-tech paperless wine lists, like the hand-held computer lists at Aureole and Blue Fin, but this goes the other way. It’s no-tech.

At Park Avenue Café in New York, there’s no wine list, and no computers—just 130 actual bottles, artfully arranged on display tables throughout the dining room. Each bottle is tagged with the price, grape varieties, and pairing suggestions from the menu’s current offerings. Guests are encouraged to go browsing before they make their selections, whereupon the wait staff retrieves properly stored bottles for service. If table-cruising isn’t your thing, Wine Director Robert Smith and his team of servers will present several choices tableside.

Park Avenue Café, 100 E. 63rd St., New York, NY. Tel.: 212/644-1900.

— Joe Czerwinski





Published on October 1, 2004