A Larger article from the Mercury News on Emile Peynaud
Emile Peynaud, a Bordeaux enologist who virtually invented the role of wine consultant, transforming the way wine is made and enjoyed, died July 18 in his home outside of Bordeaux. He was 92.
The cause was Parkinson’s disease, said his daughter, Daniele Peynaud.
More than any other individual, Mr. Peynaud helped to bring winemakers into the modern world. As a researcher and consultant, he applied rigorous scientific methods to a field bound more often by haphazard custom, guesswork and superstition. Much of the conventional wisdom in winemaking today can be traced directly to his recommendations, and the scores of globe-trotting consultants who today advise wineries on everything from grapes to barrels to labels owe their livelihoods to him.
“There was really one world for winemakers before Emile Peynaud, and another world after,” said Paul Pontallier, managing director of Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux.
At a time when growers typically harvested grapes early to prevent rot, Mr. Peynaud advocated delaying the harvest until the grapes were fully ripe. He urged winemakers to select only the best grapes for their wines, a difficult notion for many to accept at a time when quantity was often more important than quality. He advocated controlling temperatures during fermentation and insisted on improving hygiene in the cellar. He suggested that wineries develop less-expensive labels for grapes that did not meet the standard of their top label.
“Professor Peynaud was the architect who sparked the revolution in Bordeaux wine quality that has flourished over the last several decades,” said American wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr.
Bordeaux producers and connoisseurs once believed that wines needed to be tough and unpleasant in their youth to have the potential to age and become great. Mr. Peynaud rejected the notion that a wine could only be enjoyed after years in the cellar. As a result, Bordeaux and most Bordeaux-style wines today are far more pleasing in their early years.
“He told us that a great old wine has to be a great young one,” Pontallier said. “He said the balance had to be there from the very beginning, from the grapes themselves.”
Mr. Peynaud’s work extended well beyond Bordeaux-style wines. He learned how to control malolactic fermentation, a secondary fermentation that takes place after the grape juice has already become wine, a crucial step in bottling stable wines.
As influential as he was as a scientist, Mr. Peynaud made perhaps his biggest mark as an adviser and consultant, working with wineries in Italy, Spain, Chile, Peru and California, as well as in Bordeaux.