Émile Peynaud

Sara Matthews
Émile Peynaud

If it is possible to trace the modern style of fine wine to a single place and time, it might be the 1982 vintage in Bordeaux. If it is possible to attribute the style of the 1982 Bordeaux vintage to one man, it would be Émile Peynaud: Before the advent of international consultants and "globetrotting winemakers," there was the thoughtful and profoundly influential professor from Bordeaux.

Peynaud, born in 1912, earned his doctorate in enology at Bordeaux's University, where he pioneered the control of malolactic fermentation. He taught generations of winemakers and consulted with scores of top châteaus. His medicine was tough to swallow. Châteaus were harvesting early to avoid rain and rot—he demanded they wait, to pick riper fruit. Wineries were unclean, with aged vats and barrels—he called for hygiene and modern technology. His guidance helped lead Bordeaux to its resurgence in the 1980s.

Peynaud's impact extended far beyond France. In Tuscany, working with vintners Piero Antinori and Giacomo Tachis, he helped shape Tignanello and other super Tuscans. He worked with clients in California, Chile, Spain, Peru, Mexico and more before his retirement in 1990 at age 78. He died in 2004.