Log In / Join Now

Controversy Builds in Bordeaux over Decanter-Shaped Winery

Plus, a wine-in-grocery-stores bill navigates the long, winding aisles of the Tennessee legislature and Santa Barbara detectives close the case on a vintner's mysterious death

Posted: April 4, 2013

• There's a dispute over whether or not one château in Bordeaux has the right to show off its curves: Wavy architecture is forbidden by Madame la Mayor. Lalique CEO Silvio Denz' plans to build a $5 million cellar for his top cuvée, Château Péby Faugères, have been thwarted by his neighbor, the top village politician in St.-Etienne-de-Lisse, pop. 307. Denz and Italian architect Mario Botta proposed a cellar in the shape of a 56-foot-high wine carafe, which the mayor feared would endanger the region's UNESCO World Heritage Site status, so she refused the building permit. “She says she wants something rectangular,” Denz told Unfiltered. Perhaps she prefers the red blockhouse being built at St.-Emilion’s Château La Dominique, a stone’s throw from a quite curvy chai at Cheval-Blanc and a short drive from the future, spectacularly curvy $84 million wine culture center, whose carafe-like shape represents a swirl of wine on the Bordeaux riverfront. Botta said his design (shaped much like a captain's decanter) evokes an ancient baptistery, with its circular shape blending into the landscape, creating a direct and natural relationship with the vineyards, with only a group of trees marking the entrance. It has the support of Bordeaux’s French national heritage architect. Denz has already invested $19 million in Faugères, to great success, so he’s not giving up. “The new winery of Château Péby Faugères, designed by Mario Botta, is in perfect dialogue and harmony with the 'Cathedral of Wine' of Château Faugères,” said Denz. “It is absolutely incomprehensible that on the one hand the winery of Château Faugères has been granted an architectural award by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and exactly at the same time the twin-project of Château Péby Faugères has been rejected by local authorities, possibly out of personal reasons.”

• As the Grateful Dead might have sang—like most folks, Unfiltered is never too sure about the exact lyrics—"Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain't no place wine rather be. Baby won't you carry me back to … a state where it is legal to sell wine in supermarkets which will hopefully include Tennessee." It remains to be seen whether the hopes of Tennessee Jed (Unfiltered) are borne out, however, as the Volunteer State's legislative efforts to permit wine in grocery stores have been a series of fits, starts, chokes, dashed/restored hopes and hours fruitfully spent in debating how many times to delay voting on the measure one way or the other. After squeaking out of the Tennessee House Local Government Subcommittee in February, a bill that would "allow cities and counties to hold a referendum to authorize selling wine at retail food stores … [and] create a permit to sell wine at retail food stores" died in the Local Government Committee by an 8 to 7 vote, because the committee chairman, expected to vote for the bill, changed his mind when another representative moved to vote instead of discussing a bunch of amendments that had been tacked on.

A parallel bill in the state senate Finance Committee was deferred four times in March so that subcommittees could sort out such matters as whether one should really be free to purchase alcohol on a Sunday. Finally, on April 2, the senate bill also failed in a 5 to 5 vote. But then the very next day, abstaining member Douglas Henry, possibly in the throes of a Macbeth-esque crisis of the soul over the issue, decided he might rather vote aye, so long as no one's allowed to buy liquor on Sundays still. So the Finance Committee will have a re-do on April 8, to decide whether the senate should get to vote on whether individual towns should get to vote on whether they want to allow wine in grocery stores in Tennessee. Unfiltered congratulates Tennessee on the progressive efforts being made on the supermarket wine issue, all but unthinkable in our home state of New York.

• On Wednesday, more than six months after the body of Central Coast vintner Christopher Marks was found on a beach in Santa Barbara, Calif., his death was ruled a suicide by the Santa Barbara Police Department. A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head was determined to be the official cause, presumably from a .38 caliber revolver that Marks owned but is still missing today. The owner of Sweeney Canyon Vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills and an investment advisor for a firm in Los Angeles, Marks had numerous business and legal disputes related to both ventures at the time his body was found in the early morning hours of Sept. 20. Those economic troubles are thought to be what led to the suicide, although they also triggered a rash of conspiracy theories as to possible enemies with motives. Police initially believed he had fallen from the cliffs above the beach until the coroner found out a few days later that he had been shot in the head. That prompted further investigations, including an underwater search by the FBI, but they turned up nothing. Police believe that the gun was likely washed out to sea in the days between when his body was found and when the gunshot wound was discovered. The family was notified March 22, and the case is now closed.

Bard Quillman
Franklin, Tennessee, USA —  April 5, 2013 2:52pm ET
Please excuse my being less than impressed knowledge you have with the fight over wine in grocery stores in Tennessee.

In Tennessee retailers are only allowed to sell 2 items wine and spirits. In my case I am 50 feet from a Publex grocery store and I could lose as much as 30% to 40% of my business with no way to replace it. So far the grocery stores have proposed we be able to sell Cokes, Ice and bottle openers. They have also proposed that they can sell wine on Sundays but we could not be open.

So before you take what a paper or news release tells you do a little research on the subject.

We may not have wine sales on Sunday or in grocery stores in Tennessee but we have no income tax and it is spring here now.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.