Wine Talk: Ridley Scott

Hollywood director calls the shots on the set and in the vineyard
Mar 24, 2006

Born in Northumberland, England, Ridley Scott, 68, is one of the most influential and prolific filmmakers of our time. His first feature film, The Duellists (1977), won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. His second, Alien (1979), won the Academy Award for Special Effects. Blade Runner (1982), Black Hawk Down (2001) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005) are among his many credits, and in 2000, his epic Gladiator grossed $450 million and won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Scott most recently produced and directed A Good Year, starring Russell Crowe, based on the Peter Mayle novel of the same name. Scott, who was knighted by the Queen of England in 2003, lives in London and has a home and 20-acre vineyard in the Luberon.

Wine Spectator: When—and how—did you first become interested in wine?
Ridley Scott: I'm not a connoisseur. I'm just the average wine drinker who happens to have a vineyard. But I first got interested 39 years ago in London, working in advertising, when I had to do all those sales lunches. I've always had wine at home. First there was wine and beer, then the beer disappeared. The only thing left in the house now is wine and vodka. I guess my wine knowledge comes from 35 or 40 years of imbibing.

WS: Tell us about your vineyard in the Luberon.
RS: I've had the house about 15 years, and the vineyard was in place when I bought the house. They had replanted the whole thing five years prior so right now it's coming nicely into maturity. I grow Syrah, and I sell to the co-op, the Vinicol. They come with their machines and take it away. Now we're deciding if we want to start doing our own pressing, our own bottles and labels; I'm on the threshold of taking that step. We get about 55,000 bottles and I'm happy with where we are, volume-wise. I'm not the knowledge guy on this, but I work with an expert.

WS: In the time you've been in Provence, how have the regional wines changed?
RS: I spent four months in the Luberon filming A Good Year and that's the most time I've ever spent there. And it definitely seemed that people are paying more attention to the quality of the wines. You've always had the great classic vineyards—Châteauneuf is just 26 miles away—but now there are more boutique vineyards around. The movement seems to be toward smaller vineyards, which are less crippling financially if things go wrong or there's a bad season. And knowledge is supplementing what happens in a bad season. Today it seems we know how to save the day, to a certain extent.

WS: Do you collect wine?
RS: No, I drink it too fast. I'm one of those foolish people who could have been collecting but I've been busy doing other things. It's silly … but there it is.

WS: When you dine out, what wines appeal to you?
RS: I automatically gravitate toward Bordeaux, but I'll definitely look to see if there are any Luberon labels on the list.

WS: What's your most memorable recent wine experience?
RS: The experience of filming A Good Year during the harvest at Château la Canorgue, in Bonnieux, was wonderful. The owner, Jean-Pierre Margan, makes excellent reds and whites, and his rosé has become extremely popular as well. Being there, getting up close and seeing how he does it, was great. He does everything organically, which I would love to do. He has about 100 acres of vines and he's quite pleased with this year's harvest. I just loved the ambiance—the château itself is spectacular—and being five miles from my home was great. Autumn is a very, very beautiful time in the Luberon.

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