JOHN MALKOVICH ON WINE

“You can make a film about anything – what matters is the execution and detail – and the same goes for my other passions: fashion, classical music and wine”, says John Malkovich.

The esteemed Hollywood film actor 69 year old John Malkovich, best known for his roles in Death of a Salesman, The Killing Fields and Dangerous Liaisons, was speaking at the IMW Symposium in Germany earlier this month where he showed four of his wines from his estate in Provence.

“I see making wine as another form of my self-expression”, he says, “but I don’t see the point of doing anything if I don’t like it – so I only plant grapes that I like and if I don’t like the wine, I don’t bottle it”.

In 1993 Malkovich and his partner Nicole Peyran bought an old Provencal farmhouse Les Quelles de la Coste near the famous cliff village of Lacoste, in an area of the Vaucluse which reminded him of a miniature version of Franschhoek in South Africa which he also loves.

“I just love the sound, smell and texture of our area in Provence and I have never had a bad day there”, he says.  He admits that his friend French publisher Jean-Claude Lattes advised that if he started making wine it would break his heart – but Malkovich loves a challenge so immediately planted nine acres of vineyards in 2008 – making his first wine with the help of a local vintner in 2011.

“I was never an alcohol person at all in my early years. I drank beer in my twenties, discovered Champagne, white wine and Cognac in my thirties and eventually settled on red wine – and being an American I love Cabernet Sauvignon”.   He admits to being ‘led astray by English actors’ who he calls ‘heroic drinkers — “so they have a degree of blame in tempting me into the wine world”, he says.

The grapes Malkovich chose to plant on his Provencal estate are as unconventional as the man himself.

“I discovered Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley when my children went to university there – so I wanted to plant it in Vaucluse.  We are in an unusually cool spot near Lacoste with a bizarre microclimate which we discovered once we had bought it was known locally as Little Siberia – but Pinot Noir grows well here”, he says.

The name of his estate, Les Quelles de la Coste (LQLC), refers to the 14 wells (quelles in French) which come from an ancient lake, so he reckons they will always have enough water for the vines here if their roots go deep enough.

On the vineyard plots in the plain of Bonnieux at the foot of the oppidum of Lacoste on calcareous alluvial soil he also plants Cabernet Sauvignon which is pretty rare grape in this area.  He says he has never had a bad year with the grape, which is surprising as Syrah and Grenache are normally grown here.

In a ‘liaisons dangereuses’, Malkovich decided to blend the two grapes, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, together for this 14 Quelles cuvee.  “We did expect it to be undrinkable”, he admits.  “It was initially quite volatile and needed 18 months to settle down, but we like it even if it is an unconventional blend”.

He has just planted an acre of Carmenere grape in Vaucluse.  “I discovered Carmenere in Chile whilst touring with the Venice Baroque orchestra – and was very taken by the story of its confusion with Merlot in Chile – and I loved the taste – it was as if someone had put pepper in the wine”, he says.

Despite having Croatian ancestory, Malkovich is more interested in Italian grapes.  He loves Super Tuscan wines and would like to grow Sangiovese on his estate – and he would also like to make wine in Portugal.  He also mentions Chapoutier’s Hermitage 2001 as one of the most spectacular Rhone wines he has tasted.

He is keen on sustainability issues and has converted his vineyard to organic which will be certified by 2025.  His expanding vineyard now produces 30,000 bottles per year – “which is more than we can drink, so we decided to commercialise it”, he laughs.

Malkovich’s wines, like the man himself, have a lot of swagger and character.  The Pinot Noir is certainly on the muscular savoury side and a little rough & ready – but the wines (he designed the blends and labels himself) do offer a fascinating glimpse into the mind of this unique dry witted unconventional Hollywood star.

PINOT NOIR ROSE 2021 Les Quelles de la Coste

£15.95

Bright red fruits and herby undertones with a burly structure – with its weight and panache it would be a good match with charcuterie or barbequed prawns.

PINOT NOIR 2021 Les Quelles de la Coste

£26

Food friendly Pinot Noir from 10 year old vines with unusual structure, power and tannins, wild garrigue notes, savoury, slightly bitter and brusque with touch of wildness, quite unrefined.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2021 Les Quelles de la Coste

£28

Approachable in style, good freshness and structure, light tannic grip, soft rounded finish.

LES 14 QUELLES 2021 Les Quelles de la Coste

£49

Pricey 65% Cabernet Sauvignon/35% Pinot Noir blend is Malkovich’s flagship cuvee aged in new French barriques; deep dark red, concentrated cassis fruits, quite evolved with spicy herby notes and smooth approachable tannins.

All wines available from www.jeroboams.co.uk and www.wine-ta.co.uk

 

By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 22 July 2023

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