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A tribute to the silence of winemakers, by Francis Mallmann

In his guest editor's letter, chef Francis Mallmann shares his musings on fine wine and his ambitions for the latest issue of Club Oenologique magazine

Words by Francis Mallmann

Photography by Rebecca Marshall

chef francis mallmann at chateau la coste with red wine glass
The Collection

For Nicolás Catena, Bill Harlan, Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta, Anne-Claude Leflaive and John Armit

Wine is a living hope, mystery and love.
It is the loud silence of a passionate heart.

Yes, the outcome is the work of many. But in the end, it is the mission, idea and dream of a single human being. The true thread of a wine comes from the person who first dares to imagine that in that bottle there is a message, a significance, that in many years will open up inside a glass.

Over the years, I’ve always been close to wine – and to oenologists and winemakers, trying to read the romance each one of them has had with the liquid they keep captured in a bottle. They know that one day, many years later, their wine will represent something like a credo of their heart and soul, of all the risks taken in a lifetime.

I always tried to keep away from the technical aspects of winemaking, instead staying close to the passion of drinking. I decided that in life I can embrace the largesse and romance of taste, the passion found in coals and flames. As such, I’m always in search of the most perfect mise-en-scène, a place where I can lay my food. I seek to create settings as striking as an old velvet chaise longue in a French boudoir. After all, as with feasting, enjoying wine is a carnal indulgence, giving in to our inner yearnings.

Sitting down at the table to drink and savour the many lingering gestures of a glass – layers and layers of intellect worth slowly relishing in – reminds me of the profound downscale of the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 in A major (The Allegretto), where maestro and orchestra, after teasing many times, descend 29 notes in a matter of seconds. It’s a complex, glorified sound, like some sort of abandoned vertigo. To me, it’s a sound that could only ever relate to the enjoyment of wine, spirits, music, words, film and sensuality.

As guest editor of this issue of Club Oenologique, I want to bring these ideas to life: the slow, silent intent of making wine and spirits to last a lifetime; the passion and fire that goes into good food and drink. But above all else, I want it to speak to the art of enjoyment.

Our world, our relationships and our ambitions, are changing hastily, impetuously shoved forward by technology, artificial intelligence, climate change and whatnot. I truly believe that in this acceleration towards the edge of uncertainty, it is craft, passion and silence – the kind we find in the realm of wine and spirits – that will help keep us close to the true essence of life.

Having said all that, the words of the late American journalist and poet Nick Tosches stay the most central to my philosophy on wine and spirits: please, ‘just shut up and drink’

‘On ne règne sur les âmes que par le calme’
– Clementine Churchill, in a letter to her husband, Sir Winston Churchill