Om at lave vin for Francis Ford Coppola – og rejse vestpå
Hvad bør enhver mand vide om vin? Og er der forskel på at være winemaker i Frankrig og USA – og i så fald hvilke? Jeg satte et interview op med Philippe Bascaules, som efter 21 år hos fransken har taget turen vestpå til Amerika, hvor han nu skal lave vin hos Francis Ford Coppola. Læs med – og blive klogere.
Lad mig begynde med en ganske kort intro. Francis Ford Coppola kan ikke bare et og andet med film – han kan også noget med vin. I 1978 blev hans første høst sendt på flaske under navnet Niebaum Coppola, og siden hen er det gået slag i slag. En drøm om at overtage matriklen og “slottes” oprindelig navn, Inglenook, blev en realitet i 2011, og så skulle ringen egentlig være sluttet. Men nej – med overtagelsen af navnet blev fulgt op af en “kapring” af Philippe Bascaules. Han har lavet vin i 21 år hos Chateau Margaux, men blev sidste år hyret til at fuldende Coppolas eventyr i Napa Valley, Californien.
Jeg fik mulighed for at interview winemakeren, men kunne ikke nå det face to face, hvorfor det blev mail to mail. Det gør dog ikke Mr. Bascaules ord mindre interessante. Vi tager den på engelsk:
Mr. Bascaules – you’ve been hired to do what you do best; to produce great wine. From 2011 you’ve been working at Inglenook. The vineyard has a long interesting story – but what made you say yes to the job?
- This was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse. I have nothing but fond memories of my 21 years at Chateau Margaux and I turned down several offers during that time. But there is something very special about the Inglenook story and I wanted to be part of that story.
What will the main differences be between producing wine in France and USA?
- Wine production is very controlled in France, compared to America, however, there are advantages and disadvantages with both systems. Take irrigation, for example. Where it is illegal to use, drought can sometimes jeopardise the vintage. Where it is authorised, it can be used so systematically that it leads to homogenised vines that no longer express their terroir.
New technology should be handled with care – just because you’re allowed to use it, doesn’t mean that you necessarily should.
When will the consumers see and taste the first bottles that you’ve been in “touch” with at Inglenook?
- 2011 will be my first vintage. I have just been tasting barrel samples of this wine with professionals in key markets to give them a glimpse of the future. Its important for me to get feedback so soon into the job. Happily, the reactions have been excellent.
How would you in general compare the American’s wine habits to the European’s?
- It is still a little early for me to answer this, as I haven’t even been here for a year yet. Generally speaking, I think that there is more of a culture of older vintages in Europe, however, I sense that this is changing in America. I saw a tweet the other day about a sommelier in San Francisco opening a bottle of Inglenook 1959 !
What will be your biggest challenge most possibly be at Inglenook?
- My challenge is to discover and describe what is unique at Inglenook. I believe that definition is important – for both the winemakers and the wine lovers. We need to understand the inherent qualities of Inglenook. We need to be able to describe what is unique.
Will you bring any new concepts, rootstocks or brand new ideas to Inglenook?
- I am not here to make changes for the sake of it. The estate has produced some remarkable wines and I am here to make wines that are worthy of the great Inglenook legacy. I want to make wines that have texture and longevity. Wines that are impressive without being aggressive. For me, fine wine is all about nuance, balance, delicacy and texture. I am not here to make a mini Margaux, the techniques used there are not necessarly relevant to the Inglenook terroir. There will be some changes, but I need to be sure before I change something. I prefer to know than think.
What do you think is the biggest misconception when it comes to wines from California?
- I think that there are two. Firstly that all Californian wines have high alcohol content. 2011 was a cool vintage and as a result, the Rubicon 2011 will be around 13.8% rather than 15% as it has been in the past. We are keen to continue in this direction in the future. The other is that the estates are new. Gustave Niebaum created Inglenook in 1880, that’s just 25 years after the famous Bordeaux classification of 1855. There is great winemaking heritage in Napa.
What should every man in your opinion know about wine in general?
- That his personal taste is unique. He should believe in what he likes and not be pressured by outside factors. Tasting wines is all about sharing emotions and impressions, and tasting wines with others can lead to fabulous memories and discussions, but you must never forget to be yourself and remain true to what you feel.